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Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

Renee Shaw talks with her guests about the state budget. Guests: Rep. Jason Petrie, (R-Elkton), chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee; Rep. Josie Raymond, (D-Louisville), member of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee; Anne-Tyler Morgan, senior fellow at the Pegasus Institute; and Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Season 29 Episode 4 Length 56:34 Premiere: 01/24/22


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

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Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Lawmakers and Policy Experts Discuss Pay Raises for State Workers, Possible Tax Cuts, and More

Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne promised an “aggressive approach” to scheduling work on a new state budget in his chamber.

Only 12 days into the 2022 General Assembly session, Osborne made good on that pledge when the House of Representatives passed its version of a new biennial spending plan. Democrats decried the swift passage as a rush job, moving House Bill 1 from introduction to passage in less than two weeks. Republican leaders say it was the product of eight months of extensive research, committee testimony, and deliberations.

“When you take what would normally be done in a session in January and February and you do all of that in the interim prior, it seems like it’s moving really fast,” says House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Jason Petrie (R-Elkton). “But in some senses, it’s not.”

Democrats also argue that it was a mistake for Republicans to release HB 1 even before Gov. Andy Beshear had presented his budget address to lawmakers. It’s traditional for House leadership to unveil their spending plan after the sitting governor releases his or her plan. Still Rep. Josie Raymond, a Louisville Democrat on the House budget panel, says there are things to like about the GOP proposal.

“This budget is a solid first draft – it was thoughtfully done,” says Raymond. “It does no harm. There are no cuts in this budget, and that’s the first time we could say that in 16 years.”

To Spend or Not to Spend the Surplus

House Bill 1, which is now before the Senate for its consideration, includes a 6 percent pay raise for all state employees plus larger bumps for state police officers and social workers. It also provides a modest increase in per-pupil funding for public schools, money for student transportation and full-day kindergarten, and a boost in the performance-based funding pool for the state’s public colleges and universities.

The GOP plan does not include a specific pay raises for teachers, or money for pre-kindergarten or child care. Petrie says the increased dollars HB 1 allocates to public education should free up money at the local level, which would enable districts to provide pay bumps as they see fit. He also says pre-K and child care funding could come in separate bills later in the session

The House GOP budget also leaves about $1.1 billion left unappropriated, which Democrats contend is a missed opportunity to address a range of critical needs from child care, to universal pre-kindergarten, to student loan forgiveness for nurses and teachers.

“Nobody wants to blow money, but at some point it’s fiscally irresponsible to sit on money that could be put to work for us,” says Raymond. “We haven’t closed racial wealth gaps in Kentucky, we haven’t ended health disparities, we surely have not solved pandemic learning loss.”

In addition to billions of dollars coming to Kentucky from the American Rescue Plan Act, the state also accrued a significant surplus of revenues over the fiscal year. Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Executive Director Jason Bailey says that gives lawmakers one-time funds and recurring moneys to invest in the commonwealth.

"There’s a lot of ground to make up in terms of the cuts that have happened in the past,” says Bailey. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity where we could change the trajectory of this state if we put more money into things like pre-school that we know pay off, if we put more money into making college more affordable, etc.”

Petrie says his committee considered a wide range of fiscal needs and wants as they crafted the House budget, and he says senators will go through a similar process of prioritizing the projects and areas they want to fund. But Petrie contends that just because $1.1 billion is unappropriated so far doesn’t mean lawmakers should rush to spend it. He says incremental change based on thorough planning is the better approach.

“I don’t want to throw money [at a problem],” says Petrie. “I want to make sure that whatever we do, there’s forethought put in, there is a plan in place… so that you can continue to use that money to the maximum benefit for Kentuckians.”

While Republicans and Democrats haggle over whether and how to spend the surplus, Pegasus Institute Senior Fellow Anne-Tyler Morgan says it’s important to note the areas of bipartisan agreement, such as more money for social workers. She says there’s time to explore the options for spending those unallocated funds.

“We’ve heard a lot about the unprecedented surplus that we have and the opportunities that it brings for transformational investment, but Kentuckians also face unprecedented hardships now that require critical spending,” says Morgan. “So I think this budget strikes the balance fairly well…. between those urgent needs and the significant investments that can be made for the commonwealth.”

The Option of Additional Tax Cuts

Republican leaders have indicated a desire to return some portion of that surplus to Kentuckians, potentially in the form of tax cuts. The legislature, under GOP control, enacted a major tax reform bill in 2018 that reduced the state’s multiple tax brackets to a single 5 percent bracket for both personal and corporate income taxes.

Petrie contends that lowering the income tax even further – to 2 or 3 percent – would induce more people to move to Kentucky. He says that population growth would fuel economic growth.

But shifting the state revenue model from income taxes to more consumption taxes worries some policymakers, since that would likely mean raising the overall sales tax and/or taxing goods and services that are not currently taxed. Raymond says she fears another tax cut would benefit only the wealthy and squander the state’s $1 billion surplus.

“The vision I’ve heard tonight unfortunately says to me that we’re going to lower rich people’s taxes and raise poor people’s grocery bills,” says Raymond.

Bailey argues that a further income tax cut could devastate the state budget since about half of Kentucky’s revenues come from income taxes. He also contends that tax cuts favor the wealthy without strengthening the overall economy, saying the nine states with no income taxes are growing slower than the states with the highest income taxes. Finally, he disputes the notion that lower taxes are a big driver for relocation.

“The people who do move the most tend to be younger,” says Bailey. “They’re not looking at tax rates. They’re looking for a good quality of life, they’re looking for amenities, they’re looking for a specific job… Taxes are way, way down the list.”

Petrie says he’s heard from plenty of people who care more about their take-home pay than amenities, and that would readily move to a place with lower or no income taxes. He says any further changes to the state’s tax code would be crafted with Kentucky’s specific economic drivers in mind, and he says history proves that tax cuts do benefit the commonwealth.

“We’ve already done it in 2018 and guess what? The world didn’t end,” says Petrie. “Guess what? Actually our numbers got better.”

Beyond tax rates, Democrats say the state is missing out on potential new revenue by not allowing sports betting or other forms of expanded gaming, or by failing to legalize medicinal or recreational marijuana. Morgan says those ideas would be of little benefit to Kentucky.

“Anytime we talk about these smaller revenue measures, they’ll be debated endlessly, but the amount of money that they’ll actually generate for the commonwealth of Kentucky may be negligible,” she says. “We need to focus on what over the long term can bring in more growth to the state and more economic development to really see some change.”

Morgan says the state should explore a range of incentives that will both attract workers to Kentucky and help small businesses pay their employees more. She says states like Tennessee and Texas have enjoyed unprecedented growth by shifting away from income taxes, but she says Kentucky should continue to pursue a slow transition to more consumption taxes. She says that will help ensure the state’s revenue needs will be met.

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Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

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Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

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Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

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2023 Legislative Session Preview

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National Politics

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S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

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Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

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COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

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Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

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Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

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Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

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Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

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