- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014
House panel reviews plan to boost K-12 funding

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A school spending plan awaiting a vote by the House budget committee would go along with the governor’s recommendation for a sizable increase in the state’s main funding formula for public kindergarten-through-12th grade classrooms across Kentucky.

The proposal from a budget subcommittee on Monday also calls for extra funding to expand preschool services, but at a lower amount than recommended by Gov. Steve Beshear in January.

It also proposed a lower amount than the governor for textbooks, but retained Beshear’s proposed pay raises for teachers and other school employees.

“This budget that we’re presenting … delivers better education for all Kentuckians,” said Democratic Rep. Kelly Flood of Lexington, who heads the budget subcommittee on primary and secondary education.

The entire draft spending plan was reviewed ahead of expected votes this week by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee - and later by the full House - on the approximately $20 billion, two-year state budget.

The work shifts to the Republican-led Senate once the budget clears the Democratic-run House. The General Assembly’s 60-day session is more than two-thirds complete, and work on the budget will dominate the final weeks of the session.


House budget plan seeks new roles for Ag Dept.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s agency would be assigned new oversight duties that include diabetes education and energy efficiency as part of a proposed House budget outlined Monday.

Comer, a likely Republican candidate for governor next year, took issue with the proposals affecting the Agriculture Department.

His top aide worried that the recommendations could amount to “unfunded mandates,” saying the department hasn’t been informed about the sources of funding for those programs. The proposals were drafted by a House budget subcommittee led by Democrats.

“It appears we are being treated differently than other constitutional officers, and that was about as predictable as death and taxes,” Comer said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo insisted Comer wasn’t being singled out and said the tight state budget made the proposal necessary.

“You’re going to see that throughout the budget,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “It wasn’t just Jamie. There will be other places where agencies will be directed to fund certain programs.”


House budget would let schools forgive 10 days

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Since Christmas, Lawrence County public school students have attended school only 15 days due to severe winter weather, putting pressure on educators to meet state-mandated attendance requirements while also allowing students a summer vacation.

On Monday, lawmakers presented the third of three proposals to help strike that balance: a measure contained in the House budget that would forgive up to 10 missed school days this year. The House Education Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to vote on a similar bill, sponsored by Rep. John Will Stacey, D-West Liberty. Under that bill, only school districts that have missed at least 10 days would qualify for the waiver.

“We have got to figure out a way to provide relief and provide education,” said state Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, chairwoman of the House budget subcommittee that oversees primary and secondary education.

At least two other bills have been filed in the House dealing with school snow days, including one that would allow school districts to lengthen the school day in order to make up time.

“I never believed that if you had a certain number of days, that automatically translated to a certain achievement. It’s the quality of days, not the quantity of days,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “I don’t think kids going to school in July are as receptive to learning as if you get them out in June and get them a summer vacation.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he supports forgiving school snow days - but only to a point.


House OKs bills to extend employer tax incentives

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - House lawmakers agreed on Monday to extend state tax incentives aimed at spurring new expansion projects by General Electric and AK Steel, two key employers in the state.

Sponsors of the two bills said they would help safeguard high-paying jobs offered by the corporate giants.

Both measures sailed through the House with no opposition. The bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

One proposal would expand a state incentives program for GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville. The measure would provide about $15 million a year in tax incentives to GE by extending benefits of the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act to manufacturers of appliances.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said the incentives would help spur a $325 million investment at the sprawling appliance manufacturing center in Kentucky’s largest city.

The ripple effects would be felt far beyond Louisville, since GE’s employees come from 40 Kentucky counties, he said.



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