- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear’s latest budget proposal had a familiar theme - another round of painful state spending cuts. But this time, he pledged, some good would come from the austerity - an overdue infusion of money into public schools.

The second-term Democratic governor on Tuesday night proposed nearly $100 million in cuts to reshuffle money to elementary and secondary education.

“This budget proposal strategically focuses our very limited resources on what I believe will deliver the greatest return: A more highly educated population that will become a more talented workforce,” he said.

Higher education system was among the broad list of targets for cuts in the $20.3 billion, two-year budget plan that Beshear presented to lawmakers.

As promised, Beshear found extra money for Kentucky’s schools by recommending $98.6 million in spending cuts.

“It makes damaging cuts in many areas in order to keep Kentucky at the forefront of educational attainment in this nation,” he said of his plan.

Beshear outlined his budget priorities in a speech to a joint session of the General Assembly. It marked the starting point for lawmakers to craft a budget for the two years starting July 1.

Beshear proposed an extra $189 million over current funding for the state’s main funding formula for K-12 classrooms. The increase would raise per-pupil spending to its highest total ever in Kentucky, he said.

From 2000 to 2008, the funding formula grew an average of 3.4 percent yearly, he said. Since 2008, when the recession hit, funding has been flat.

He proposed pay raises for teachers and other school employees. He also proposed spending $36 million over two years to expand preschool services, and targeted more funding for textbooks, extended school services and school safety.

Beshear recommended that many state agencies, including his own office, take a 5 percent budget cut in the first year of the two-year budget cycle.

Among other agencies targeted for the cut were the Public Protection, Labor and Finance cabinets, the Agriculture Department and the attorney general’s, auditor’s and treasurer’s offices. Those agencies’ budgets would remain flat in the second year.

He acknowledged the cuts would cause more damage to a state government that has endured about $1.6 billion in state spending cuts in the past six years as tax collections plunged amid the downturn.

The latest cuts could result in delayed services and possible layoffs and facility closures, he said.

He proposed a 2.5 percent budget cut in the first year of the budget cycle for universities, community and technical colleges and Kentucky State Police.

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