FRANKFORT —On Tuesday, Governor Bevin proposed his 24-month spending strategy. On the surface, his budget looks reasonable and responsible. However, once we started digging deeper, we found cuts to education, human services, and other programs Kentuckians depend upon to have long-lasting ripple effects in our communities.
We agree that making the two pension systems solvent is a priority, but we also recognize that we cannot cut our way to prosperity. However, the governor’s promise of funding the ARC PLUS is somewhat misleading because the proposed funding is dependent upon litigation and judgements in favor of the commonwealth to fund the PLUS.
Another point not covered in the governor’s remarks is the proposal in his budget to sweep $500 million from the Kentucky State Employees Health Care Trust Fund to put into a “permanent” fund. Of course, the employee health care trust fund is money appropriated in the budget and premium secured from the employees on their insurance coverage.
The governor’s proposal contains a lot of smoke and mirrors, but does not solve our problem and is not without consequences. We cannot make investments in education, economic development, workforce development and other areas if we follow the model the governor has laid out.
The governor’s proposal is only the beginning of the process. We are optimistic, the legislature will take this plan and improve on it with a budget that we all feel is a step forward for Kentucky.
Along with digesting the governor’s budget plan, we have been working on legislation that is making its way through the process. Some bills that passed out of the Senate this week include:
• Senate Joint Resolution 36 urging Virginia to restore a so-called reciprocal agreement that allowed Kentucky concealed carry permit holders to legally carry a concealed firearm in Virginia. Kentucky’s concealed carry law has been a model since its inception.
• Senate Bill 16 known as the “Look Before You Lock Bill,” would protect rescuers from being sued for any property damage caused in pursuit of saving a life from a locked vehicle. A report from kidsincars.org found 723 child vehicle heat stroke deaths from 1991 to 2014, an average of 37 per year. Eighty-seven percent of those children were under the age of 3.
• Senate Bill 33 would require CPR training of public school children in grades nine through 12. Each year nearly 424,000 people will have sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital and only 10 percent of those victims will survive. When a CPR trained bystander is nearby, these victims’ survival rates double to triple.
• Senate Bill 22 would make the accreditation association for ambulatory healthcare recognized in Kentucky statutes. The bill is a “technical fix” to a statute involving a nonprofit that already accredits over 70 health care organizations in the state.
• Senate Concurrent Resolution 9 would recognize the importance of removing barriers to breastfeeding in Kentucky. While the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and the World Health Organization all recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of an infant’s life, only 31 percent of Kentucky infants are still breastfeeding at 6 months of age, giving Kentucky the ranking 42 out of 50 for breastfeeding rates among all states.