House Passes Budget Bills

The House of Representatives passed the biennial executive branch and transportation operating budgets on Thursday, including a provision to allocate an additional $50 million to cities for street maintenance. The Senate will now take up House Bill 1 and House Bill 241. Once they pass, a conference committee would settle any differences between the chambers.

House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Jason Petrie (R-Elkton) said both budget bills work together. “There have been extra measures taken to utilize general funds in selective surgical ways –  hopefully smart ways – to maximize every bit of the road fund money that comes in through that source,” he explained, “to maximize that for true transportation needs rather than other things.”

Representative Brandon Reed (R-Hodgenville) and Representative Sal Santoro (R-Union) testified at a committee hearing earlier in the day regarding House Bill 241. “This budget is the beginning to the end of underfunding our operations budget,” Santoro insisted.

Santoro spoke about the decision to allocate $100 million for city and county streets. “It includes $50 million in each year for special grants to help local governments with road maintenance,” he said. “That’s a total of $100 million that we’re going to split between our counties and our cities. So, it’s 50% to our counties and 50% to our cities.”

Both measures include committee substitute language but still contain funds described when House Republican leadership outlined the plan on January 7. The proposals have $28.5 million for a training center at the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) at Eastern Kentucky University, $10 million for a population-based grant pool under the Department for Local Government (DLG) that would allow each representative and senator to award local grants, and $350 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for water and wastewater projects.

House Bill 1 would temporarily increase the supplemental pay for police officers and firefighters from $4,000 to $4,300 and provide reimbursement for city administrative expenses associated with the increase.

When asked whether legislators would consider Governor Andy Beshear’s budget proposal, Petrie reiterated that Thursday’s vote was the first step in the process. “Am I going to tell you that this will be the end result, the end budget for transportation? No. Is this what we’re proposing on the House side after looking at all of the recommendations, including any other bills filed and any other input we received? Yes,” Petrie answered.

Also Thursday, the House State Government Committee unanimously approved House Bill 69. Representative John Blanton (R-Salyersville) introduced the bill that extends temporary total disability for essential workers exposed to COVID-19. The measure continues provisions of an executive order signed in 2020.

The bill presumes that first responders, health care workers, corrections officers, military personnel, National Guard soldiers, domestic violence shelter workers, child advocates, rape crisis center staff, Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) employees, grocery workers, postal service employees, and some childcare workers that contract COVID-19 did so while on the job.

House Bill 69 is retroactive to September 7, 2021, when the initial emergency order expired. It now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Representative Adam Bowling (R-Middlesboro) filed House Bill 335 today. The KLC initiative will require that appointments to the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council (KLEC) and the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities be made from a list of three candidates provided to the governor by the Kentucky League of Cities.