Kentucky legislature walking on tightrope



Column by Austin Schmitt

Money. Money. Money.

Money makes the world go ‘round; that’s a simple fact nobody is debating.

Everything we do on a daily basis revolves around money.

Products and services are priced at a certain dollar figure. We pay and we move on.

It is a simple concept, right?

Try telling that to the elected officials of this state.

Putting a price tag on an education is becoming an increasingly daunting task.

Every year, the legislators huddle in our state capital and every year, the same people go behind closed doors arguing over this and that.

Last year, it was slot machines that nobody could agree upon and this year it’s the same slot machines that are holding up presenting a manageable budget for the next two years.

You can’t oversimplify a budget process because there is a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye.

Even a university budget is more than just tuition revenue plus state appropriations plus donations equals a functioning university, which most people think is what the equation should be.

I sat down with Angie Martin, UK vice president of financial operations and treasurer, last year for about an hour, and she attempted to explain the budget process to me. Even as an accounting and finance major, my head was spinning by the end of the hour.

One thing I did take away from that meeting, though, was the need for a state budget to be in place before Martin and UK can do any planning for the next year.

So here it is, the last week of April and the state government does not have a budget in place and subsequently neither can UK.

On Friday, when the Council on Postsecondary Education voted to cap tuition increases at 6 percent for UK, I was a little surprised.

I wasn’t surprised by the fact tuition was going up, again, I was more surprised at the CPE’s ability to set a tuition increase without knowing how much the Kentucky universities’ state appropriations are for the next fiscal year.

Get your mind around this. At this point, only four months away from beginning the 2010-2011 academic year, universities are playing pin the tail on the donkey, as far as setting tuition rates is concerned.

Why this shot in the dark? One needs not look any further than about 40 miles down the road where the people elected to run this state are continuing to twiddle their thumbs in hope of some divine intervention to fall through the sky and give them a budget for the next two years.

When students see their tuition rates going up again next year, they do not need to turn their attention to the current administration or current president (although maybe our current President could look to entities like UK HealthCare or UK athletics on how to run a multi-million dollar business), they need to look down I-64.

For it is the officials, elected by the great people of this state, who are running education into the ground while breaking the bank of parents and students all across the state.

What is going on in Frankfort is a circus, with a circus defined as, “highly entertaining, yet pointless in the end.”

Our legislators provide the entertainment by making hollow arguments and then going home at the end of the day with nothing to show for all their “hard work.”

Give me a break, state government. Give every citizen of this state a break by checking your egos at the door and doing something good for this state.

Answer this question Mr. Legislator, would you want the education of this state to suffer because you and your fellow performers couldn’t put personal pride on the back burner? Is that too much to ask?

If the people were smart, they would vote every one of the current legislators out of office in the next election.

The circus comes to town every year, but the performers change — pricing an education is the current tightrope these performers are walking.

Slip up once and you hit the safety net. Slip up twice and you may find yourself out of a job. You’ve had slip number one, what will be the act in the second?