Another cold, snowy week in the Commonwealth has come and gone. And so has the third week of the 2022 Regular Session.
Legislators returned to Frankfort on Tuesday after taking Monday off to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. The short week was bookended by bipartisan legislation related to student mental health and the next biennial budget.
On Thursday, the House approved House Bill 1, the proposed executive branch budget, and House Bill 241, the proposed transportation budget. This is the first time since 2018 that the legislature plans to approve a two-year budget. Economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to shorter sessions and approval of one-year budgets in 2020 and 2021.
Sponsors of HB 1 and HB 241 believe the measures appropriately address Kentucky’s needs and make good use of taxpayer money. If you count every tax dollar that flows through state government – a figure that includes state and federal sources as well as restricted funds such as college tuition – the two-year total for the 2022-2024 budget cycle amounts to more than $118 billion. Bill sponsors said eight months of working with other lawmakers, various agencies, stakeholders and citizens went into drafting the proposals.
The proposed executive branch budget is expansive, and appropriations include investments in education, public safety, tourism, infrastructure and more.
As proposed, HB 1 does the following:
- Fully funds full-day Kindergarten for every public school district
- Increases SEEK funding for every student
- Meets the actuarial requirements regarding the Kentucky Retirement System, the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System and the Kentucky State Police Retirement System
- Gives a 6% pay raise to all state employees
- Gives a $15,000 salary increase to all Kentucky State Police officers
- Allocates $350 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward clean water projects
- Funds raises for social workers and provides funding for additional social worker positions
- Provides funding for facility repairs and improvements at public colleges and universities
- Ensures funding for Medicaid growth
- Appropriates $14.1 million to expand the senior meals program, and more
Sponsors of the proposed transportation budget say it would provide $100 million for local governments for repaving roads and fixing potholes, $200 million to match federal infrastructure grants and more.
This week’s House votes on the executive and transportation budgets are merely procedural so lawmakers can work on the bills in conference committee. It is likely these bills will undergo changes before the General Assembly considers them again later on in the legislative session.
The most important item missing from HB 1 is teacher raises. Instead, the state increases SEEK funding and covers more transportation costs, which would free-up money that districts can use for raises at their discretion. I would like to see teacher raises codified as they were for almost all other state workers, and am hopeful changes may be made in conference committee.
The House adopted the proposed executive branch budget by an 85-8 vote and the proposed transportation budget by a 90-4 vote. I voted for the budget bill because it included many broad areas of funding that I support, and will work to ensure that any overlooked areas will be reconciled as it is being finalized.
The Senate will take both bills into consideration before the formation of the conference committees.
Also this week
- On Tuesday, the House unanimously adopted House Bill 44. This student-led effort and bipartisan bill would require local school districts to revise their attendance policies to allow a student’s mental or behavioral health status to qualify as an excused absence. The bill’s sponsors hope it will ease the stigma surrounding mental health. I wholeheartedly support this bill and voted to pass in in the House. HB 44 will now go before the Senate for consideration.
- On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee approved House Bill 308. The measure, otherwise known as the Kentucky Rural Jobs Act of 2022, would allow insurance premium tax credits for capital investment companies that invest in small businesses in rural Kentucky. These businesses often have difficulty obtaining a loan or attracting investors on their own. In committee, I questioned whether there are any protections for existing Kentucky small businesses versus those that relocate to take advantage of the tax credit. There are not, and I have followed up with the sponsors to ensure oversight of this important allocation. The bill will now go before the House for consideration.
- On Thursday, the House and Senate voted to override gubernatorial vetoes on House Bill 2, which establishes a new House district map, and Senate Bill 3, which establishes a new Congressional map.
- Also on Thursday, the House State Government Committee approved House Bill 69, which would extend the executive order related to temporary disability from occupational exposure to COVID-19 from Sept. 7, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2023. The measure will now go before the House for consideration.
This coming week should see a return to more routine work as our committees continue approving a wide array of bills. We will reconvene on Monday at 4pm, and I will update you further on that work next time. For now, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any thoughts or concerns about this year’s legislative session. The toll-free message line 1-800-372-7181, while my email is Nima.Kulkarni@lrc.ky.gov.