- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The proposed Kentucky state budget includes $234 million to give raises to more than 136,000 state workers.

The raises vary from 5 percent to 1 percent for state workers and judicial employees in 2015, with the largest raises reserved for employees who make less than $27,000 a year. In 2016, all state workers would receive a 1 percent raise.

The state’s 100,000 teachers and other school employees would get a 2 percent raise in 2015 and a 1 percent raise in 2016.

The raises for state workers, first proposed by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, passed the House budget committee Tuesday.

The judicial branch had asked for $16 million to give raises to its 3,300 nonelected employees. But state lawmakers budgeted $7.6 million.

“Twenty-five percent of our workforce now is working at a salary below the federal poverty guideline for a family of four,” Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton said. “That’s where we would focus our attention first.”

Most of the money - $167 million - is for teachers and other school district employees. School employees have not had a state-mandated raise in at least six years, according to Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association. The average Kentucky teacher makes $50,326 per year. Twenty-eight states pay their teachers more on average, she said.

Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, who teaches at a public school when he is not in Frankfort, noted that although the House budget plan calls for 2 percent raises for teachers beginning July 1, lawmakers did not give school districts enough money to cover the raise. He proposed a 1 percent raise for teachers to take some pressure off school districts.

“Many districts don’t have that money; thus, what do they do? They cut staff,” he said.

But Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford and the House budget chairman, said school districts should have enough money to cover the raises because lawmakers gave the districts permission to use money normally reserved for textbooks to help cover the cost of the raises.

David Smith, president of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said he was grateful for the raises. But he questioned their impact given the rising cost of state health insurance premiums.

“Call it what you want. But a raise to us is defined as state workers getting more money than what they had before,” he said. “If you get more money but your cost of health benefits increase, and you actually take home less money with the raise than what you had before, that’s not a pay raise.”

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