The state senate formally made changes to the most significant budget bill, the biennial executive’s budget, which is House Bill 1. HB 1 alone spends $26.3 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Senate priorities are reflected in the Senate Substitute Committee drafted by senators.
The House and Senate will begin budget negotiations in a conference committee, likely to be held next week. The two chambers select members to enter budget negotiations over their differences so that the final product can be agreed upon.
Senate Alternate 1 to HB 1 reflects the Senate Majority’s firm understanding that every penny given to Frankfurt came from an investment of time and energy by every Kentucky taxpayer.
Highlights of the Senate budget include:
Salary increases for state employees
• A $4,500 increase in the first year of the budget for government employees, which equates to a 10% increase for employees in positions earning $45,000. The state finds many positions more difficult to fill and retain without an increase in the cost of living over time. The second year will also include a similar amount of increase, but will be dependent on a staff cabinet study that will focus on work environment, merit, locality and job impacts.
• These considerations will also be applied in increases for the Kentucky State Police. Each soldier will receive a minimum salary increase of $15,000.
• Social workers will receive an increase of $4,800 in the first year, then a 10% increase in the second year. These increases are in addition to the 10% increase they received effective December 16, 2021 by Governor’s Order.
An important part of this Senate budget, and a reflection of the caseload for social workers, is to provide an alternative work program for those who have worked at least four years with the state. This will provide another work opportunity which will help to combat employee burnout, heavy workload and emotional exhaustion in the profession.
• Boosts the State’s Rainy Days Fund, also known as the Fiscal Reserve Trust Fund, to $1.756 billion.
• Leaves a conservative balance of $1.3 billion after the biennium, providing the state with fiscal flexibility
• The Senate budget accomplishes all of this while including the House tax refund plan for Kentucky workers, $500 for single filers and $1,000 for households.
Investments in education
• Per-pupil increases seek funding to $4,100 in year one (instead of $4,000) and up to $4,200 in year two and provide funding for school construction and maintenance. Previously allocated federal dollars became ineligible for school infrastructure funding following the Biden administration’s policy shift after Kentucky already allocated those funds last year.
• Increases state reimbursement of county jail inmate per diems by $4, reducing the burden on local jails that house state inmates.
I will keep you posted as the budget negotiations lead to something more concrete. Please know that Senate District 29 remains my priority as we strive to use the taxpayer dollars you have entrusted to your Senators wisely.
In addition to these important budgetary efforts, I would like to highlight a number of other important bills.
Senate Bill 216 relies on electoral integrity for clean elections. SB 216 expands the Attorney General’s office’s independent investigation into potential election irregularities to include no less than 12 Kentucky counties. It implements measures to prevent voter fraud by removing credit or debit cards as a viable form of voter identification and prohibits a voting system from being connected to any network, including the Internet, or any external device.
Additionally, it requires all voting machines to use paper ballots by Jan. 1, 2024, and removes Kentucky’s secretary of state as chair of the State Board of Elections. After the breach of trust, the former secretary of state was rightly removed from his role as chairman of the board.
Senate Bill 205 is Kentucky’s answer to big banks and investment firms refusing loans and investments in fossil fuel companies. They promote “green” investments and political agendas. The coal industry has been a vital part of Kentucky’s economy for over 100 years and has provided affordable energy and good jobs for countless citizens of our Commonwealth.
This concerted effort to financially starve the fossil fuel industry contributes significantly to high fuel and energy costs, causing extreme financial hardship for hard-working Kentuckians.
SB 205 makes it clear that Kentucky stands with our fossil fuel companies and the Kentuckians who work every day to produce the resources that fuel our nation.
The bill requires the Kentucky State Treasurer to maintain a list of financial companies and banks that boycott the fossil fuel industry and to share that list with Kentucky government agencies that make substantial financial investments, such as than state pension funds.
These government agencies are required to suppress investments in financial companies that refuse to stop boycotting. Kentucky will not invest public funds in financial companies that have reported lending to the coal industry.
Kentucky will not invest in financial companies that have declared war on our coal and fossil fuel industry by adopting a political philosophy that will continue to drive up fuel and energy costs and put our reliable electric grid at risk. . You should check and see if your local bank is on this list.
We still have two weeks in session, and I will continue to work to get funds in our counties, as many roads worked as possible.
As always, it is an honor to represent you in Frankfurt. If you have any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues, please contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at [email protected]. gov.
Sen. Johnnie Turner (R-Harlan) represents the 29th District, which includes Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Knott and Letcher counties. Senator Turner is deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. He is also a member of the Standing Senate Committees on Transportation and the Judiciary.