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'Probably More Similarities Than Differences': House Budget Receives Bipartisan Kudos

Josh James

The Kentucky House has overwhelmingly approved its version of the state budget, sending the more than $23 billion two-year spending plan to the Senate. The bill preserves some priorities laid out by the Democratic administration but not without some adjustments.

The House version finds some common ground with the new governor — fully funding state pensions and avoiding what lawmakers are referring to as "devastating cuts" made in recent years.

The budget does reshuffle some numbers when it comes to the administration's top concerns, taking Gov. Andy Beshear's much-touted $2,000 annual raise for teachers and spreading it out amongst additional school employees, such as bus drivers and cafeteria staff. Beshear's budget called for the hiring of 350 new social workers. The House plan trims that to 100. And the new spending bill reinstates performance-based funding for higher education.

They're alterations Democrat Derrick Graham said are fuel for debate, but "this is not bad of a budget in terms of... if you look at the comparisons between the governor's proposals and the House proposals, there are probably more similarities than there are differences."

Other changes in the House budget include: rolling back funding for the troubled Kentucky Wired project aimed at expanding broadband access, inserting an additional $49 million to hire 400 more school mental health professionals, and a more modest revenue increase from new taxes on tobacco and vaping products.

Friday's 86-10 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which will pass its take on the spending plan, with lawmakers hashing out a compromise between the competing versions in what's known as a conference committee.

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.