Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 30, 2014

State budget compromise hammered out

Agreement reached on 2-year, $20B plan

FRANKFORT — As Sunday dawned over the Capitol Rotunda, House and Senate leaders emerged from a marathon, all-night, closed-door budget conference to announce they’d reached a compromise on a new two-year, $20 billion budget.

“At this point in time, I think we’ve reached a fiscally responsible budget, one that has significant investments in education and recognizes the reality of our environment and circumstances,” said a bleary-eyed Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

“Obviously, we had to find some middle ground,” said Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg.  “It was feisty at times, but I think everyone will be satisfied with it.”

While the final written document wouldn’t be available until sometime late Sunday, Stivers and Stumbo said it represents give-and-take by both sides, often splitting the difference on issues that divided the two chambers.

SEEK, the formula used to fund elementary and secondary education, will be increased $189 million as proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear and the House. That allows teachers and school employees to receive mandated pay raises, but the compromise budget reverses the schedule: they will receive a 1 percent increase in the first year, a 2 percent raise in the second.

Universities’ operating funds will be cut 1.5 percent in the first year and remain flat in the second. Beshear had proposed a 2.5 percent cut. But they will get their top construction priorities for each campus, one each to be funded from the General Fund and one from their own revenue streams.

There are two exceptions: the University of Kentucky will also receive funding for the UK hospital and student center. The former will be paid for with revenues the hospital generates while Stumbo said the university received a substantial private contribution for the student center.

Murray State will also get a second project funded through the General Fund, a veterinary diagnostic center which benefits the entire state, Stivers said.

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