House proposes more cuts to higher education



More funding cuts to higher education and no reliance on money from additional gaming — two main differences between Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky House of Representatives’ proposals for the state’s two-year budget.

In January, Beshear proposed a plan potentially protecting state universities from cuts in the first year of the budget, but would cut 2 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a Jan. 20 Kernel article. His plan relied on the passing of expanded gaming legislation that could raise about $780 million from video lottery terminals.

State Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford), the chairman of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said the House has taken Beshear’s recommendation, but because the expanded gaming proposal did not pass in the Senate in the summer, the House did not see it passing now. Rand said because of this, the House did not see $780 million being realistically available for the budget.

Rand said the House’s proposal includes cuts to higher education for both years.

Because the House’s proposal does not include the assumed gambling money, the House has to take that money out of the budget and replace it with cuts in all areas, Rand said.

Rand said plans to save money include reducing the number of appointed government positions and state contracts.

“… we are trying as hard as we can to balance our two-year budget, make up about $1.4 billion in deficit that we have identified, through making cuts in our government,” Rand said.

In an e-mail to the Kernel, UK spokesman Jimmy Stanton said it is too early in the budgeting process for the university to comment, but the UK administration appreciates the House’s strong effort “to protect higher education in Kentucky as much as possible.”

State Rep. Kelly Flood (D-Lexington) said preserving higher education is important to the state because the universities are economic engines essential during tough times.

“ … by holding steady with our universities through this tough time, we are signaling how critical education is now and into our future,” she said.

Rand stressed the proposal is still an active document and can be worked on and changed further.

He said after it goes to the Senate, members of both the House and Senate will get together to collectively discuss and work through differences, and then both must pass a final form. Rand said this usually takes about three months to accomplish.