By Ted Edmonds, 91st District Representative
It’s never easy to write the state budget, even in good times, because there are always more needs than we have money. This year has been by far the most difficult for our leaders and budget committee to design a state spending plan because of the tough economy. It’s a double whammy for us – at the same time we’re bringing in less revenue, the needs of our citizens are greater because of increased dependence on Medicaid, unemployment insurance, higher crime rates, and more people going back to school to get job skills.
With that said, I couldn’t be prouder of the budget we passed this week. House Bill 290 does what we need in this economy — it makes cuts where we can afford them, maintains spending the areas where we can’t afford to make cuts, and invests in necessary infrastructure like roads, schools, water lines in order to create construction jobs and take advantage of low interest rates and low prices.
The process is far from over, though. The Senate will produce its own budget plan in the coming weeks, and then members of both chambers, from both parties, will work together on a compromise plan that we can all live with. There’s still a long road ahead, but I’m confident that we’re up to the challenge.
In the meantime, I hope the Senate includes some of the needed projects that we were able to find for the 91st House District. In total, there is $1.45 million for water and sewer improvements in Breathitt, Estill, and Lee counties.
It’s not a pretty budget, not even close. It’s not the budget any of us would want if we had more flexibility, but the facts are pretty clear. Because of the economy, our tax base is shrinking while our needs are growing. At the same time, we can’t afford any tax or fee increases right now, because they would hit the people who can least afford them. Instead, we put a focus on spending our money more efficiently. It’s always a good time to trim the fact, but a year like this has made us re-evaluate our priorities and make sure that every dime of taxpayer money goes to something important.
To that end, we put in several provisions in the budget aimed at reducing the number of non-merit political hires — a good number of middle managers who can be eliminated without harming state services. The same goes for many state contracts for work that could be done just as well and more cheaply by state employees.
In these last two weeks of the session before we take a break for the governor to consider vetoes, we’ll be making a lot of last-minute changes to bills, making compromises, and seeing issues come out of nowhere. It’s more important than ever for you to stay in touch, so call our legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181, or call my office at 502-564-8100, ext. 818 to let me know how you feel about any of the bills waiting to be voted on.