By Cassondra Kirby/News editor
Gov. Paul Patton said Friday he would not sign the state budget passed by the Kentucky General Assembly. The bill, House Bill 269, one Patton calls “structurally out of balance” by $370 million will become law without his signature, according to a news release from the governor’s office. In the release, Patton said the enacted budget, which he finds flawed in some places, is a necessary step. He understands the legislature’s urgency to pass a budget but feels the plan doesn’t adequately address future revenue concerns for the state, he said in the release.
The state budget was passed March 10 by votes of 36-1 in the Senate and 87-7 in the House. The $14 million spending plan calls for a 2.6 percent reduction for higher education for the current year, but offsets that with no additional cuts for the 2003-2004 year, and with $18.9 for enrollment growth, according to Ken Johnston, vice president for financial affairs.
In the budget, Eastern received money to continue with its electrical updating, one of its main priorities. The plan also provides authority to borrow money for housing — an area Eastern anticipates projects in, according to Johnston.
Although both the House and the Senate made education a top priority, Johnston said there are still some disadvantages facing universities in the budget.
“There was no construction money provided — this means no Phase II for our Business and Technology and our wellness centers,” Johnston said.
The budget was supposed to be passed last year, but the House and Senate couldn’t agree over public financing and campaign issues. Patton called a special session but that also ended in a stalemate.
Since July 1, the state has been operating under a temporary-spending plan issued by Patton, an unprecedented situation. The deadlock over public financing ended when House Democrats said that a worsening revenue outlook would make it impossible to fund campaigns for governor, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Patton said he objects to the legislature’s decision to use one-time monies to fund ongoing state programs. Patton said those monies will not be available next year and the next governor will have to address the state’s financial crisis, something he doesn’t want. Patton said in the release that the problem should be solved now so the next governor can start with a clean slate and not inherit a flawed budget plan.
“The choice between cuts and new revenue can be delayed until the 2004 session and a new governor is in office; however, I think it should be solved on my watch,” Patton said in the release. “I stand ready to work with the General Assembly to address the problem before my term ends, should that be the desire of the legislative leadership.”
Patton responded to the revenue crisis by trying to demonstrate the need for higher taxes. He held a series of news conferences in December to warn of cuts in education and services for the needy and public safety unless taxes were raised and last month he offered a plan to raise tax revenue by $573 million. Both chambers ignored Patton’s proposal, and legislative leaders developed their own budget, House Bill 269.