Governor Andy Beshear delivered his 2022 Budget Address that echoed many of the points he made in the week leading up to Thursday night’s speech. Beshear held news conferences, releasing daily some of his budget proposals after House Republicans released their budget on January 7.
Shortly after Beshear’s speech in the House chambers, Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) suggested that legislators would hold budget hearings soon. “I think you will absolutely see action in committee next week,” he said. Whether that activity is from House Bill 1, or the governor’s proposal, is yet to be seen. Neither Osborne nor Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said they had seen Beshear’s bill before Thursday night.
“We can be both fiscally responsible while making investments in our people and our future,” Beshear said. “The investments that we make in this budget will benefit many generations to come and can forever change the trajectory of this commonwealth.”
Beshear said his budget spends $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and millions more anticipated from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
He proposed $250 million for major transportation infrastructure projects – the Brent Spence companion bridge project, I-69 Ohio River crossing in Henderson, and the completion of the Mountain Parkway. The governor noted that these onetime funds give Kentucky the flexibility to meet state match requirements for expected federal grants. “These types of dollars are saying, ‘We’re not only committed to this project, but we’ve also already budgeted our share, and now the federal government can step up,’” he added.
There’s another $184.9 million over three years for a state match to unlock nearly $774.7 million in federal money for the Highway Trust Fund. At a news conference earlier in the week, Beshear said that would allow nearly $1 billion in road and bridge construction in Kentucky. His 2022-2024 biennial highway construction plan equals $8.5 billion based on anticipated state and federal program revenue.
Beshear allocated $500 million over the biennium for the Better Kentucky Cleaner Water Program, $200 million in broadband deployment monies to assist private sector and government entities build the last mile to unserved and underserved areas. He wants $50 million to develop general aviation airports, plus $6 million to support constructing a new terminal building at Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah.
The City of Covington would receive $10 million to support construction and outfit a shared research and development lab focused on life sciences. Beshear pledged $97.4 million to renovate 11 career technical centers and another $75 million for future rounds of renovation grants.
He also said that while he proposed a 5% pay raise for Kentucky state workers, he would accept the House proposal of 6% if they agreed to his preference of the raise taking effect on May 1 instead of the employee’s annual hire date as legislators proposed.
The Governor repeated his call for $15,000 raises for Kentucky State Police (KSP) troopers, $8,000 raises for telecommunicators, and a loan forgiveness program for teachers, nurses, and social workers.
While Speaker Osborne would not commit to a timeline, it was clear that he was ready to act. “We are going to be on the most aggressive timeline in modern history on this budget,” Osborne said. “I see nothing that will keep us from accomplishing that. I do want to note that while we did file a bill last week, I also did sign the bill tonight as I made the pledge to the governor that we would give it every consideration.”
Stivers voiced concern about how to fund the governor’s proposals. “I don’t really want to comment on the governor’s request,” he said. “It sounds good. It looks good. But it sounds like it would put a chicken in every pot. We don’t know how we’re going to pay for all of those chickens we’re promising to put in every pot.”