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Education, pensions top priorities in House budget

By David Meade

State Representative

By the first day of March, the House of Representatives had adopted a budget. While this is a historic first during my time in the General Assembly, it is not the only one that we saw this past week.

In House Bill 200, which lays out how your dollars will be spent over the next two years, we are making a huge investment in the future of Kentucky. I was proud to vote to increase SEEK funding, which is the formula for education spending, to its highest level in the history of the Commonwealth. This measure raised per-pupil spending above $4,000 for the first time, adding an extra $60 million yearly to Kentucky classrooms.

Education was prioritized in many other ways as well. Our budget fully funded the pensions of our teachers, law enforcement and state workers, to the tune of over $4.8 billion dollars. This was a huge priority for me, as our long-neglected pension systems are in need of an infusion of funds in addition to reforms.

Many of you reached out asking me to find funding. We did just that, in a way that will assist us in combatting one of the worst human crises facing our state and restore many of the Governor’s cuts to our public education system. These cuts would have made it difficult for our many school districts to even keep the lights on.

As you are aware, we are facing several cuts here in our own school system. I successfully fought to restore current state contributions to local school districts for transportation and health care, as well as to ensure that the health insurance of our retired teachers is fully funded in this budget.

Our budget also restored the Governor’s cut to our Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, and even provided millions in new money to expand these valuable resources. We also provided new funding for new vehicles and rifles for our state police officers, a vital public safety measure that would allow them to operate more effectively with modernized equipment.

There is no doubt that this budget is a difficult one, and one that requires many compromises as well as cuts. Increased pension contributions and rising costs across other areas of government made many cuts necessary. In the coming days, the Senate will begin reviewing our budget, and will come out with an amended version. It is my hope that the Senate prioritizes public education in the same manner we did.

On another note, this past week saw the highlight of my legislative career with the overwhelming passage of House Bill 1, which I proudly sponsored. My legislation will provide fundamental reforms to Kentucky’s foster care and adoption systems, enabling us to move our state’s needy children into loving homes in a more timely fashion. HB 1 will transform many of our state’s social services for the better, demonstrating that Frankfort’s commitment to children and families has never been stronger.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice in Frankfort. We are facing many critical issues in the remaining weeks of the 2018 session, making it necessary for you to reach out to me with your thoughts on pending legislation. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rep. David Meade is the Majority Caucus Chairman in the State House of Representatives. He represents the 80th district, which includes Lincoln as well as part of Pulaski County.