FRANKFORT — After a pause in legislative work Jan. 20 to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Senate reconvened last Tuesday in a joint session with the House to hear the Governor’s budget proposal.
Determining the state’s two-year budget is the most daunting, time-consuming task we undertake in the legislature. As you can imagine, getting a majority of 138 lawmakers — who represent varied ideologies and communities across the state — to agree on any bill is hard. It was never meant to be effortless. Our government and the legislative process were designed so that every person has a voice and only the best bills become law. A measure with the complexity and consequences of the budget bill makes that process even more involved. Tuesday night’s speech was a first step.
The governor’s plan, which focused largely on increased spending for education and training efforts, is now in the hands of House budget subcommittees. There, line item details are being hammered out for billions of dollars of revenues and expenditures.
In the coming weeks, the bill will move through the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and then to the full House for that chamber’s stamp of approval. That is when we will have a chance to put our mark on it here in the Senate. Then conferees will meet to settle differences between the House and Senate plans.
It is much more than a matter of mathematics. Getting the numbers to add up is easy. The hard part is reconciling the differences in priorities, principles and philosophies among lawmakers. We do not always agree on which programs and services to cut or invest in. And we have to work toward a consensus on the most fiscally responsible way to move our state forward.
It will most likely take nearly every one of our remaining working days — and many late nights and weekends between — for the plan to make it back to the Governor’s desk to become law.
For now though, many other bills are getting their turn on the Senate floor.
Senate Bill 4, called the Legislative Pension Reciprocity Repeal, would permit lawmakers to make a one-time irrevocable declaration opting out of the higher-paying pension calculation.
Senate Bill 4 is now in the House for their consideration.
We also heard more news from the Governor on Wednesday when he announced in a joint press conference with U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers the expansion of high-speed broadband Internet statewide.
High-speed Internet has become a necessary tool to compete in today’s global economy, and 23 percent of Kentuckians currently do not have access to reliable broadband. That will change with a state and federal investment building nearly 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure to connect Kentucky to the world. The project will start in eastern Kentucky.
This will remove barriers to students and adults across the state to education, training, health care and career opportunities and benefit the state for years to come.
In today’s rapidly changing world, Kentucky needs to keep up. With this program, we will not only keep up, but move ahead.
We will consider many more bills and issues before final adjournment on April 15. I encourage you to stay informed and stay involved with the legislative process and the bills we take up. Let me know your thoughts and concerns about the budget or any other legislative issues we are considering. To do my job well, I need to hear from you.
To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 1-800-633-9650. To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835. For more details about the work of the General Assembly, you can visit www.lrc.ky.gov. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.