By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate passed its version of the Commonwealth’s two-year spending plan Thursday, which subsequently became the last day of legislative activity for the week, as the leaders of both chambers announced an abbreviated schedule in response to the growing concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic.
After Thursday, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne announced the Legislature will adjourn until the following Thursday, March 26. The General Assembly will meet again on April 1 to pass its final version of the budget and on April 15 to consider veto overrides and adjourn sine die.
As for the budget, House Bill 352, the amended version passed by the Senate contained several changes compared to the version passed by the House earlier this month.
Highlights of the Senate budget include:
• Increasing the SEEK per-pupil base guarantee funding for school districts to $4,161 in each fiscal year. SEEK funding would rise to $4,112 by the second year of the House budget compared to $4,040 in Gov. Beshear’s budget plan.
• Directs $1.13 billion in actuarial recommended contribution (ARC) payments for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) into the state’s Permanent Pension Fund — a holding account — until structural changes are made to KTRS that will ensure financial stability to the system.
- If changes are not made to KTRS by Aug. 1 of each fiscal year, then that year’s funds would go into the primary pension fund for state workers at the Kentucky Retirement Systems.
• State employees receive a 1 percent raise and social workers receive a 2 percent raise. Funds are provided to hire 50 additional social workers.
• Funds are provided for school mental health workers in the amount of $14.8 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 and $23.7 million in FY ‘22.
• Directs $211 million more than Gov. Beshear into the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund, anticipating a greater need for state services as Kentuckians are laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic.
• The two chambers ultimately will form a conference committee that will continue budget negotiations throughout the next two weeks.