Frankfort, KY – Millions around the world are turning their eyes to Louisville this weekend for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby. It is an honor and a privilege to represent the 40th District in the Kentucky General Assembly, which includes the historic Churchill Downs. As we all prepare for the “greatest two minutes in sports,” I wanted to update you on the budget we passed that will guide our state for the next two years and what it means for our city.
This budget means some good news for our city. Some of the specific funding highlights and project for Louisville include:
$55 million to expand of the U of L football stadium
$46 million for needed renovations at our metropolitan research university
$6 million to renovate facilities and the Kentucky School for the Blind
$12 million for roof repairs at the Kentucky Exposition Center
There is also funding for roads and highway construction throughout Jefferson County and our entire state. That said, I was disappointed that some priority items, which promised to help move our community and our commonwealth forward, didn’t survive the governor’s veto pen.
Other than constitutional amendments, which go before the voters, every bill that passes in Frankfort has to clear one final hurdle before becoming law: the governor’s pen.
The governor has the authority to sign or reject bills, or to let them become law without a signature. He or she can only approve or veto bills in their entirety – except budget bills, which can be line-item vetoed.
Vetoes occur during most legislative sessions, but this year, the first of Governor Bevin’s administration, the ink flowed much more freely than any other time this century. Regardless of the motives behind this governor’s action, he has decided to limit educational opportunities for tens of thousands of students while also ending funding guarantees for a variety of needed programs and services.
The most-recent vetoes arrived late last Wednesday, the final day he could act on the bills the General Assembly had sent him on April 15th before concluding the legislative session. Parts of the budget, the state’s road construction plan and all of House Bill 626, our initiative to put a two-year degree within reach of every Kentucky high school graduate, were the most prominent that this governor struck down.
House leaders have questioned whether the vetoes themselves were done properly because it appears the governor may not have followed what our constitution requires for him to exercise his veto pen. As that issue is debated, it should be noted that the bills he rejected would never have reached his desk without strong bipartisan support, and in some cases unanimous votes by the people’s elected representatives.
HB626 was well-known because it included the already popular “Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship” Program, which promised to provide the “last dollar in” and cover remaining tuition costs for thousands of incoming college freshmen seeking associates degrees. There were several criteria students had to meet to qualify. Students would have to attend a Kentucky college or university offering a 2-year degree, they would need to take 15 credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.5 GPA. The scholarship amount would have been determined after factoring in other scholarship and grant money.
The governor’s vetoes also reduces Lottery funding for need-based scholarships and nixes the General Assembly’s aim to broaden dual-credit opportunities for high school students who wish to take college courses. Crossing out these programs blatantly limits access to financial-aid programs that help low income and middle income families afford a college education for their children.
The veto of House Bill 626 also erases the parameters for $100 million in bonds that would go toward the construction of workforce-training facilities across the commonwealth. One of the projects this was supposed to fund was an advanced manufacturing and technology training center here in Louisville. CEOs of Ford, GE, and others advocated for this provision, and it seems the governor ignored their requests.
At the other end of the education spectrum, there will also be no expansion of preschool eligibility as included in our bipartisan budget proposal. The version sent to the governor would have allowed families of four making around $45,000 per year or less qualify for preschool assistance for their children. The cruel reality of this particular veto is that it didn’t cost an additional dime of taxpayer money, it merely increased access.
One veto in particularly was odd because Gov. Bevin had supported the bill earlier in the legislative session. It would have brought Kentucky into compliance with a 2005 federal homeland security law requiring more secure forms of identification and help keep our people safer when flying in airplanes. By not complying with this federal law as the General Assembly intended, starting in 2020, Kentuckians will be unable to board commercial aircraft or enter U.S. military bases with their Kentucky driver’s license.
Although the vetoes put a damper on the legislative session, it was a productive time in many other ways. New laws will re-dedicate efforts to strengthen the state’s public retirement systems; giving the state a new economic-development tool to build major infrastructure projects; crack down on repeat DUI offenders; and establish a plan to test rape kits much more quickly. Those unresolved issues confronting our state will undoubtedly be discussed further in the months ahead.
The legislative session may now be over, but it is never too late to let me know what you think about the new laws, the vetoes or any other issue affecting the state. Please email me at [email protected] or call to leave a message toll-free: 800-372-7181.
I hope to hear from you soon.
– Representative Dennis Horlander