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Budget, Board Of Education Battles Already Brewing For Beshear

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Newly sworn-in governor Andy Beshear made good on a campaign promise to reshuffle the state board of education Tuesday, but the swift executive action is already sparking the first fight of his young administration.

File under "That Didn't Take Long." The Democratic attorney general-turned-governor may soon move from one of side of the courtroom to the other, with members of the Kentucky Board of Education promising to file suit after Beshear offered this applause line at his inaugural:

"This morning, I reorganized the state Board of Education and appointed new members who support public education," the governor said. 

Read the full executive order.

The decision, which appears likely to lay the groundwork for the removal of Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis, has the support of the Kentucky Education Association. But ten of the board’s eleven members plan to lodge a complaint, arguing Beshear’s action runs afoul of state laws requiring the governor to appoint education board members in a staggered fashion every two years.

Former board member Gary Houchens tells WDRB Beshear’s reorganization is “of questionable legality and must be tested in the courts.”

With the inauguration of a new Democratic governor promising raises for teachers, efforts to expand Medicaid, and the protection of pensions, it will be up to lawmakers to deliver a final two-year spending plan in the coming months. The top office may be changing hands, but it’s the Republican-led legislature that still holds the purse strings in Frankfort. And while Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony was all about finding "common ground," GOP Senate President Robert Stivers said funding remains a challenge.

"The governor talks about increasing pay for teachers. I'd say you need to not just think of teachers, but all the other people, the support personnel, the bus drivers, janitors," the Manchester lawmaker says. "The real key question is how do you do it. Where do you find the money?"

Despite a cold reception among Republicans for the governor’s preferred money-maker, expanded gaming, the Senate’s top Democrat, Morgan McGarvey, doesn’t see all legislative dead ends.

"I think sports gaming is a real possibility. Casino gaming, expanded gaming is still a possibility, and I think you could possibly see a bipartisan effort for some type of tax modernization," the Louisville Democrat says.

Former Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget director released a memo ahead of Beshear’s inauguration warning the state will face a $1.2 billion budget shortfall over the next two-and-a-half years.

Lawmakers return to Frankfort to begin work on a budget in January.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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