By Mark Schnyder
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) -- Cold, harsh reality. That's how Gov. Steve Beshear describes his $18.5 billion budget for 2008 through 2010. Instead of touting bold new initiatives, the governor's budget address Tuesday night was mostly about cutting back. WAVE 3's Mark Schnyder has a breakdown of the governor's plan.
"In Kentucky we are dealing with inherited numbers so dire that were we to allow it, they could cast a deep, dark cloud over this Commonwealth for an immeasurable period," said Gov. Beshear during his address to the General Assembly Tuesday night.
Widespread cuts are no longer just a suggestion. They're all over Governor Beshear's proposed budget. We're talking on average 12 percent cuts almost across the board. Transportation, higher education, economic development and parts of the criminal justice system are among the many parts of state government that will have to live with less.
"In this budget, we have laid the ground work for regaining our financial footing," said Beshear.
There are a few winners in this budget. Medicaid, school district health insurance, the teachers retirement system and the Department of Corrections will see the biggest spending increases. The governor says they are essential. Notice K-12 education is not on the list, but Beshear said in his speech, this is a priority, too.
"So while most of the rest of government will have to make do with significantly less, this budget provides the funding to maintain the SEEK base per pupil guarantee for the next two years," said Beshear.
Beshear continues to oppose tax increases of any kind, including raising the cigarette tax currently one of the lowest in the country. This suggestion isn't going to go away.
"I would say that would be good incentive for people and that possible tax is gaining momentum in the house," said Rep. Harry Moberly (D-Madison) after the speech.
At the end of his speech Gov. Beshear suggested one way to generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year. For the first time since he campaigned for governor, Beshear brought up casinos. He plans to submit a constitutional amendment to lawmakers soon with hopes they'll allow citizens to vote on it.