Debate

Democratic candidate for governor Andy Beshear responds to a question during the gubernatorial debate on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at the Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Governor Andy Beshear's proposed budget shows promise for a Kentucky higher education budget increase. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Beshear delivered his first budget address to the Commonwealth. In the address, Beshear proposed a 1 percent increase to public higher education.

"In this budget, we are ending the cuts to our public universities and community college system," Beshear said in his address.

The Kentucky House and Senate will now get to make their own budget proposals and will have to compromise to settle out the differences between each chamber's budget. The final proposed budget will have to be signed into law by Beshear before the April 15 deadline.

Kentucky's higher education budget has seen cuts in 12 of last 13 years, and this is a step-up from 2018, when former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin had proposed a 6.25 percent base reduction to all Kentucky postsecondary schools. This percentage cut had translated to a $16.1 million reduction to UK’s budget and a $54.3 million combined reduction to all Kentucky public postsecondary institutions. 

The former governor had also proposed enacting what is known as "permformance funding," where additional financial assistance be disbursed to universities based on academic performance. 

"These cuts have been painful, and have led to consistent tuition increases for our students," he said.

Along with this increase, he proposed creating the Higher Education Resurgence fund, which is a "$200 million bond pool to allow our universities to rebuild aging infrastructure so they can move into a brighter future."

He also proposed using millions in lottery revenues for financial aid for Kentucky students. According to Beshear, the lottery brought in record revenues in 2019. He said that with this revenue, Kentucky would be able to provide scholarships to nearly 60,000 students, which includes more than 7,300 needbased students.

"That is going to break cycles of poverty," he said. 

Beshear's budget also includes $336,000 for the next two years for the University of Kentucky Press. The press sought its state funding completely cut in the 2018 budget proposal. 

As for the University of Kentucky, spokesperson Jay Blanton said the administration is appreciative of Beshear's "commitment to, and support of, funding for education at all levels, including our state universities."

"He understands our essential role in helping create a strong future and strong economy for Kentucky," Blanton said. "We know that this proposal is the first step in a comprehensive process."

Blanton said he and the rest of the administration are looking forward to working with policy-makers and legislators to work on a final budget for post-secondary education in Kentucky.