House budget realistic for Kentucky


Editorial Board

With both the Kentucky Senate and Gov. Matt Bevin proposing 9 percent cuts to higher education in their budgets, it looks as if UK is going to take a financial hit. 

Budgets proposed by the governor, the Senate and the House of Representatives will now be presented to a conference committee composed of House and Senate members to create a final budget.

That committee will send its budget to Bevin, who could sign it into law. 

Legislators likely see universities as an easy thing to cut — the student vote will not make or break their chances come election time — and with a looming pension crisis, something, if not many things, in the state’s budget must go.

The House of Representative’s budget proposed maintaining UK’s state funding levels in 2016-17, and it also removed the governor’s outcomes-based funding initiative, which would allocate money to universities based on their performances.

It would then create a task force on performance funding to determine how funds should be allocated to UK in 2017-18, without lowering them.

Students and university presidents should applaud the House for its budget. 

Cutting university budgets by 9 percent is hasty to say the least, especially considering how many jobs UK creates for Kentucky. Perhaps there are places in higher education and at UK worth cutting, but legislators won’t know that until they take a hard look at university budgets. 

The task force is a way to examine higher education for possible financial waste before making irreversibly deep cuts. 

President Eli Capilouto should also be lauded for his campus-wide emails sharing his fight for the importance of UK to Lexington and Kentucky. 

The university creates $3.4 billion in revenue annually, according to a campus-wide email, and it has a total payroll of more than $1.3 billion annually, with about 12,500 full-time employees. 

With so many people being employed by UK alone, it is hard to imagine 9 percent across-the-board cuts being good for the state.

The pension crisis is, and should be, at the front of the minds of Kentucky’s legislators, but it should not be the only thing on their minds. It does not justify taking a such a big risk with universities that are leaders in employment, health care and education. 

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, funding for universities and community colleges will have been reduced by 35 percent between 2008 and 2018 once inflation is taken into account, if the Senate or the governor’s budget cuts go into effect. 

Universities have been taking, in comparison to the proposed 9 percent cuts, small financial hits from the state for years. From 2007-08 to 2014-15, state appropriations for UK have dropped by $57 million, but the proposed cuts would be unprecedented in the state. 

If legislators want to continue attracting businesses to Kentucky, they should realize that they need universities to be an attractive place for students. 

Their cuts will almost certainly lead to higher tuition, which means fewer students coming to the state. Kentucky needs those educated people to move the state forward and to lead Kentucky during hard economic times to come.

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