- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Teachers get automatic raises in state budget

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s roughly 100,000 teachers and administrative staff will get an automatic pay raise in each of the next two years - even if their school districts can’t afford it.

The state’s two-year spending plan, approved Monday by the Kentucky General Assembly, requires school districts to give employees a 1 percent raise in the 2015 school year and a 2 percent raise in the 2016 school year. Those raises are in addition to the district raises teachers are scheduled to get based on their district’s pay schedule.

The state raises would cost about $174 million, according to budget estimates. The budget includes an extra $182 million in state money to help districts pay those raises. But that money is divided among districts according to a complex formula, and some districts might not have enough to cover the cost of the raises.

“Based on calculations that quite a number of districts have made, it will cost more to cover the pay raises than the increase they will receive,” said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association. “In their situation it becomes another unfunded mandate.”

The raises are a victory for House Democrats, who pushed to make the raises mandatory during last week’s contentious budget negotiations. Senate Republicans wanted the raises to be optional because they were concerned some districts could not pay for them.

Originally, the plan called for teachers to get a 2 percent raise in the first year. But lawmakers flip-flopped those numbers to make it easier for districts.


370,000 Kentuckians sign up for health insurance

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - More than 370,000 people have signed up for health insurance through the state’s marketplace, a project that has come to define Democrat Steve Beshear’s term as governor.

“We are thrilled with the level of interest and enrollment that we’ve seen for our first open enrollment period,” Carrie Banahan, executive director of Kynect, the state’s health insurance marketplace, said in a news release.

But as the governor and his staff celebrated the numbers on Tuesday - one in every 12 Kentuckians now has health insurance through Kynect - the program’s future is less certain in the state legislature.

Monday, state lawmakers approved a two year, $20.3 billion state spending plan that forbids Beshear from using any state tax dollars to pay for Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid program or the private insurance marketplace.

“You give the governor credit for what he’s done. What the governor did was create a portal, a website. That’s all. The product is still Obamacare,” Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said.

Stivers said the Republican majority in the Senate still opposes the federal Affordable Care Act. He said it contributed to this year’s contentious state budget debate, which did not conclude until 5:30 Sunday morning after an all-night closed-door meeting. Of particular concern, Stivers said, was the roughly $100 million the state will have to find in two years to begin paying for the state’s share of the expanded Medicaid program.


Wisconsin, Kentucky governors bet over game

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin and Kentucky’s governors are putting their state’s best beer and bourbon on the line in a friendly wager over the outcome of Saturday’s Final Four game.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is offering up an array of Wisconsin beer, bratwursts, and cheese. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is betting a fully stocked Kentucky bourbon bar that the Wildcats will best the Badgers.

Walker says the Badgers have the momentum and skills to tame the Wildcats, while Beshear says he looks forward to grilling Wisconsin brats after Kentucky wins.

The two teams meet Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, for the chance to play for the national championship next week.


Family furniture company changes with the times

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A family furniture business in Campbellsville that was destroyed by fire in 2010 is rebuilding with reproduction Shaker and midcentury modern lines, as well as custom work.

The Lexington Herald-Leader (https://bit.ly/1i9Xkab) reports Eugene McMahan & Son Furniture Co. has just four full-time workers today, including McMahan and son Patrick McMahan. But the company has kept afloat thanks to a reputation for quality and a willingness to change with the times.

The business was started by Eugene McMahan’s grandfather and his eight sons in the early 1940s. At its peak it had 38 workers.

Although times have changed, the quality of the furniture has not. Every piece is hand-crafted from solid Kentucky cherry and walnut using traditional joinery.

The McMahans make a lot of traditional cannonball and four-poster beds, chests of drawers, bookcase desks, drop-leaf tables, corner cupboards, sideboards and sugar chests. About half their work is custom. People come to them wanting a piece they have seen elsewhere or they remember from their childhood.

“We don’t charge any extra just to make it different,” Patrick McMahan said. “We charge you based on what it costs us to make it. If you’re a good furniture-maker, you should be able to sit down in a few minutes and figure out measurements.”

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