Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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January 21, 2014

‘Pride and regret’ in Beshear budget

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday night offered state lawmakers reluctant to tackle tax reform in an election year a two-year budget he said filled him with both pride and regret. It’s a budget that proposes more money for elementary and secondary education and for state workers’ salaries – but cuts nearly everything else.

“It is a plan – to be honest – that fills me with both immense pride and with intense regret,” Beshear said. “Regret because the choices reflected in this document do great harm to many state programs and services needed by Kentuckians.

“But pride because these same choices empower us to make bold investments in the intellectual capital and economic competitiveness that Kentucky’s future demands,” Beshear went on.

College students and their parents might not see it that way. The budget cuts another 2.5 percent from higher education.  In 2000, the state provided about 68 percent of college costs while students and parents paid for about 32 percent. In 2013, the percentages were reversed: the state paid 38 percent and tuition costs provided 62 percent.

Beshear’s proposed budget exempts student aid from the cuts and fully funds the KEES merit-based scholarships – but it does not increase need-based funding as tuition continues to rise making it harder and harder for lower income families to pay for college.

“Look, I am painfully aware that with this reduction, our colleges and universities will have undergone cumulative cuts of 17 percent during this historic recession,” Beshear said.  He said it was among the most difficult decisions he made “because higher education deserves more, not less.”

But, he continued, there was no other way to create the money he’s using to increase funding for K-12 education.

Beshear tries to soften the blow for universities by authorizing bonding authority for the universities to pay off bonds for capital projects with their own money, including at least one project for each of the community colleges.

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