Beshear’s excessive budget cuts will hurt Kentucky students

I hope you students who wanted to make a few extra dollars by going door to door for Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in the fall saved whatever you were paid, because if he gets his way, tuition is going to skyrocket when he cuts education funding.

While Beshear promised to fully fund education and to expand education programs like preschool, now he actually has to make decisions with limited resources. And it is obvious his priorities do not include education. He has already forced public universities to cut their budgets, as the Kernel pointed out in an editorial a couple of weeks ago. Moreover, he is indicating that higher education should prepare for drastic budget cuts.

Beshear has said the shortfall for this year is over $400 million, according to a Jan. 17 Lexington Herald-Leader article. However, a large portion of this shortfall is not from decreased revenue; instead, agencies are going over their budgets. Most college students have to stick to a budget. If you start to run out of money, you take steps to save your money. What do these state agencies do? Ask for and expect to receive more money. And just how has Beshear proposed dealing with this problem? He has asked universities to absorb huge cuts. This should be temporary, right?

Not so much. Beshear, in what I think is a thinly veiled attempt to begin drumming up support for casinos, is now talking about how bad the outlook is for the next budget cycle. In fact, he asked all public universities to plan for a 15 percent budget cut over the next two years. Thankfully, President Lee Todd and other university presidents refused to do so, citing that such cuts would irreparably harm the universities and any progress made toward top-20 status.

So what is Beshear left to do? As Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher correctly predicted throughout the campaign, the tax-and-spend Democrats are back and wanting to increase taxes. Both House and Senate Democrats have indicated they will support raising the cigarette tax to increase revenue. The liberal tactic of raising taxes is not necessary to generate more revenue.

In fact, what Kentucky is facing is not a budgetary crisis. Revenue this year will be more than revenue last year — and that is according to Beshear’s own budget office. In other words, the legislature will have more money to spend this year than it did last year. The only issue is that agencies will not have as much extra money as they originally thought.

If revenues for Kentucky will be larger, that means we could actually budget the same amount of money for programs as we did last year and then figure out where the excess revenue would be best utilized. Thus, I have to ask: Why must education leaders prepare for the worst? It is clear they could get the same amount as last year, which is not a cut in funding at all. I think Beshear is making the situation sound worse to try to solve the supposed problem through expanding gambling.

I do want to point out, however, how this reaction compares to Fletcher’s. When Fletcher took office, a document from former Gov. Paul Patton’s administration predicted up to a $1 billion deficit. While this never materialized, Fletcher was able to create a surplus during his term. And, as I noted last semester, Fletcher showed his support for higher education by increasing education funding from $3.3 billion to $4.1 billion, which included a 20 percent increase in funding for postsecondary education.

Thomas Roberts is the president of UK College Republicans. E-mail [email protected]