FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear criticized Republican lawmakers on Monday for failing to “meet the moment” on K-12 education funding during a time of unprecedented revenue surpluses.
The Democratic governor praised many priorities in the state spending plan crafted by the GOP-led legislature – pointing to pay raises for state workers and funding gains for infrastructure, higher education, economic development, and workforce development. He aimed his sharpest criticism at what was left out of the budget as he revealed his line-item vetoes to the massive two-year budget.
“While we make some great investments in our future, the budget certainly doesn’t meet the moment when it comes to K-12 education.” the governor said.
Beshear said lawmakers should have put more money into SEEK – the state’s main funding formula for K-12 schools. And the governor faulted lawmakers for refusing to fund one of his top priorities – universal pre-K for every 4-year-old in Kentucky.
Republicans promptly fired back, saying the budget funds full-day kindergarten, pours money into teacher pensions and increases SEEK funding. Republican lawmakers also capitalized on revenue surpluses to pass tax legislation aimed at gradually phasing out the state personal income tax.
“Once again, Gov. Beshear stands at a podium painting a picture of his leadership that doesn’t match reality,” state Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard said in a statement issued during the governor’s news conference.
Beshear said the criticism was “about politics.” The debate about budget policy will likely continue into next year, when the governor seeks reelection to a second term.