Updated Kentucky budget with increased school bus funding advances to House

Kentucky House Republicans proposed having the state pick up more of the costs for student transportation in K-12 schools under an updated budget plan that cleared a committee on Wednesday.

The action by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee sets up a full House vote on the main budget bill that covers the state’s executive branch. That vote could come as soon as Thursday.

Republican House leaders said the measure meets current needs while putting the Bluegrass State on strong footing for the future. They emphasized the voluminous bill’s investments in education, infrastructure, public safety and human services.


“It continues to reflect our mission of providing the necessary functions of state government and ensuring every dollar invested benefits all Kentuckians,” committee Chair Jason Petrie said. “We’re not looking to score political points or pander to political interests.”

One key change was the level of state support for the costs to transport K-12 students to and from school.

In the version headed to the House floor, the state would cover 100% of those costs in the second year of the biennium. The state would cover 80% of those expenses in the first year of the two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1. In the budget plan he submitted to lawmakers, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear called for the state to fully fund student transportation costs in both years.

Students arrive at Meyzeek Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky, after taking the bus on March, 2, 2017. A newly proposed spending plan would see the state cover more of the costs for student transportation in K-12 schools. (Michael Noble, Jr. for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The House committee didn’t budge on its plans for achieving teacher pay raises.

The House GOP plan doesn’t include the guaranteed pay raises for educators and other public school employees that Beshear requested. Instead, the House GOP plan encourages school districts to use additional state funding to award salary increases. Local administrators would decide the size of raises.


Beshear called for a guaranteed 11% raise for teachers and all other public school employees — including bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria staff. The governor has made higher teacher pay a priority, saying it’s essential to make Kentucky more competitive with other states. Kentucky currently lags near the bottom nationally in average teacher starting pay and average teacher pay, he says.

Crafting a budget is the top priority for lawmakers this year, and the House action is another step toward achieving it. Once the budget measure clears the House, it will be sent to the Senate, which will put its imprint on state spending for the next two fiscal years. The final version will be ironed out by a conference committee made up of House and Senate leaders. Both chambers have Republican supermajorities.


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