Governor, Legislators Can’t Agree on Budget
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2003 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
For the second time in three years, the Kentucky legislature adjourned without passing a budget, leaving Gov. Ernie Fletcher to craft one after the fiscal year started July 1.
The governor used executive authority to forge a spending plan that keeps the state government functioning, but school officials are wary about operating under it. Although Mr. Fletcher has announced how much he intends to appropriate for the whole fiscal year, he has the authority to set spending only for the first quarter. If the legislature doesn’t formally adopt a budget by Sept. 30, the governor will declare the budget for the second quarter.
"It’s been a tremendous headache for schools," said Brad Hughes, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.
The legislature spent much of its session battling over Mr. Fletcher’s proposal to overhaul the state’s tax system and was unable to compromise on a spending plan.
Mr. Fletcher’s plan would allot a 1 percent increase in the state’s per-pupil spending. The rate increases from $3,191 in fiscal 2004 to $3,222 in the new fiscal year. Overall, the state’s education budget will be $3.3 billion for the next year.
The Republican governor says his plan includes enough funding for a 2 percent increase in employee salaries.
The governor and legislative leaders are discussing a special session to settle the budget impasse.
—David J. Hoff
Vol. 23, Issue 44, Page 24