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State Budget Discussion

Renee Shaw hosts a discussion about the state budget. Guests: State Rep. Josie Raymond (D-Louisville); Andrew McNeill, president of the Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics & Education (KYFREE); Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy; Anne-Tyler Morgan, attorney and member of McBrayer, PLLC; and State Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Elkton.
Season 30 Episode 38 Length 56:33 Premiere: 02/05/24

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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.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

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; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

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

Panelists Discuss Funding for Public Education, Child Care, and Other Budget Allotments

Last week, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed its version of a new, two-year state budget. Totaling nearly $130 billion over the biennium, the plan includes funding increases for K-12 public education, meets public pension obligations, increases Medicaid waivers and supports for those with intellectual and development disabilities, and provides some assistance for the state’s beleaguered child care industry.

House Bill 6 would also grow the state’s Budget Reserve Trust Fund to more than $5 billion by the end of the biennium. Depending on your point of view, those savings reflect conservative fiscal policy or a significant missed opportunity.

“You can’t continue to stuff money in a mattress when your roof is leaking. We need a good Rainy-Day Fund but we’re way beyond that,” says Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

“What we’re hearing across the board is that Kentucky no longer needs to operate from a sense of scarcity and fear,” says Anne-Tyler Morgan, attorney and member of McBrayer, PLLC. “We do have enough money to both save and continue a fiscally prudent manner of spending our money strategically to help Kentuckians while also preparing for the future.”

Public Education

HB 6, which passed the House on a 77-19 vote, raises per-pupil funding for public schools known as SEEK from the current $4,200 per student to $4,368 in the first year of the biennium and $4,455 in the second year. The plan also fully funds student transportation costs for school districts in the second year.

But Republican leaders again rejected Gov. Andy Beshear’s call for an 11 percent across-the-board pay increase for teachers and other school personnel. House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Jason Petrie (R-Elkton) says the budget includes enough discretionary money for superintendents to decide what raises would be appropriate for their districts. He contends mandating a statewide pay increase is “a complicated affair” that could worsen funding disparities among districts, whether the money flows through the SEEK allocation or is a separate line item.

“If you try to put that through SEEK, you’re going to end up with no district getting what they thought they were going to get,” says Petrie. “When you take money outside of the SEEK formula, you’re going to exacerbate that disparity between affluent and less affluent (districts).”

Critics of the budget plan say it simply fails to do enough to raise educator salaries and prevent existing teacher shortages from getting worse.

“Since 2008, the average Kentucky teacher salary has fallen $9,736 once you count inflation,” says Bailey. “No wonder teachers are leaving their profession.”

A recent survey from Kentucky Association of School Administrators showed that 96 percent of respondents said districts would be unable to provide competitive salaries under the House plan. State Rep. Josie Raymond (D-Louisville) says starting salaries for teachers in neighboring states like Tennessee are now $50,000, far above what most Kentucky districts offer. She argues that increasing SEEK by only $255 per student, as House Republicans propose, is much too low.

“To even get us to those pre-recession levels of funding, you’d have to put $1,500 more per kid,” says Raymond.

Andrew McNeill, president of the Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics and Education, says it’s a superintendent’s job to ask for more money even if they never say what it would cost to fully fund public education. He says it’s easy for Gov. Beshear to call for an 11 percent raise for school employees when he doesn’t have to figure out how to pay for it. McNeill contends the GOP approach of letting school districts decide their own raises is valid.

“There’s no opposition to increasing teacher salaries from this (Republican) majority,” says McNeill. “They’ve gone about it a different way.”

Pre-Kindergarten and Child Care

Critics also say the House plan appropriates insufficient moneys to the state’s child care centers and it fails to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

Day care centers in the commonwealth are set to lose some $330 million in federal funding when COVID pandemic relief ends this fall. To make up for that loss, House Republicans allocate $70 million to child care in their budget.

But without more financial backup, many centers say they might have to shutter. Some 1,700 centers have closed in the last decade alone, leaving many parts of the commonwealth without affordable, quality day care options.

“Without a significant state budget investment, the entire state is going to become a child care desert,” says Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks.

McNeill contends that options for state funding of child care haven’t been properly vetted. He also argues that child care centers should operate like any other small business that has to manage its staff and pay its bills.

“In my 20 years, I cannot remember a group of small businesses or an industry lobbying the legislature for hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their business profitable,” says McNeill.

Raymond argues the state regularly subsidizes businesses and industries, like incentives provided to bourbon distillers or the new electric vehicle battery plants in central Kentucky. Bailey says child care providers, unlike other businesses, are caught between their operating costs and what working families can pay for daycare.

“The market is broken,” says Bailey. “People are not making enough in wages to afford child care, and workers at child care centers aren’t making enough to stay in the job.”

Bailey says the legislature should provide at least $300 million for child care so the industry can at least maintain the status quo while lawmakers look for longer-term solutions to the crisis.

The current lack of child care options is already a workforce issue, keeping many parents at home instead of on the job. Morgan says that makes child care a critical part of the state’s economy. She says the Senate version of the budget, which has not been released yet, may do more to fund child care, and separate legislation may address other issues plaguing the industry. Still, Morgan says that likely won’t include funding for universal pre-K, which Gov. Beshear has called for but Republican leaders have rejected.

“We will probably not reach the full level of measures that have been called for, partially because there’s not industry-wide support for all of those measures such as universal pre-K,” says Morgan.

Other Budget Measures

Given what’s not in HB 6, whether that’s pre-K funding, a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees, or more infrastructure spending, critics say it makes no sense for Republican leaders to grow the Budget Reserve Trust Fund to more than twice what they say the state needs.

A separate spending measure, House Bill 1, does take about $1.8 billion from the so-called Rainy-Day Fund to pay down public pension debts and invest in drinking water and sewerage treatment projects.

McNeill says it’s important to hold money back in the event of an economic downturn or another round of natural disasters. He says the state should also hold an equivalent of 40 to 45 days of operational expenses in reserve.

“It’s also just a strong commitment to fiscal conservatism,” says McNeill. “They are choosing not to spend money for a very responsible reason.”

But that still leaves millions the state could invest in current needs that would position Kentucky for future growth, according to Bailey. He argues Republicans have crafted the budget in such a way as to meet mandated revenue goals that will allow another half-a-percent decrease in the state’s income tax.

“This budget has some gymnastics to try to hit the triggers for additional income tax cuts,” says Bailey. “If you look at the bottom line of what they are spending, it happens to be just about the amount less than the revenue to trigger an income tax cut in 2025.”

Republicans have a goal of eliminating the state income tax, but Bailey and Raymond warn that will have dire consequences for state coffers.

“That would do away with 40 percent of our General Fund,” says Raymond. “We have not heard from the Republican supermajority what the plan is to replace that.”

While the regular budget bills await Senate action, another measure could further complicate the state’s finances. House Bill 5, the Safer Kentucky Act, could substantially increase corrections costs in the commonwealth by extending prison sentences for some offenses and by creating new crimes. The legislation passed the House in late January without a required fiscal note saying how much it would cost to implement the various provisions.

Bailey calls HB 5 “a budget buster” that would force the state to spend more on incarceration while doing little to actually reduce crime or address its root causes. McNeill questions the effectiveness of the proposed policies and says lawmakers and taxpayers deserve to know what the measure would cost.

“This isn’t really an issue that’s going to impact the next two years,” says McNeill. “This is an issue that’s going to impact the next 20, and the trajectory of dollars that we’ve had to commit to corrections is unsustainable.”

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Season 30 Episodes

Abortion Legislation

S30 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/19/24

School Choice and Education Issues

S30 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/12/24

State Budget Discussion

S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

S30 E37 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/29/24

Safer Kentucky Act

S30 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/22/24

Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/08/24

Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

S30 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/17/23

Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E27 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/09/23

Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

S30 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/26/23

SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

S30 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/19/23

Horse Racing Safety

S30 E16 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 06/12/23

A Discussion of Gun Laws

S30 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/05/23

Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

S30 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/22/23

2023 Primary Election Preview

S30 E13 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/15/23

Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

S30 E12 Length 15:00 Premiere Date 05/08/23

Republican Candidates for Governor

S30 E11 Length 1:29:20 Premiere Date 05/01/23

Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E10 Length 1:15:06 Premiere Date 04/24/23

Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

S30 E9 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/17/23

Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

S30 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/10/23

Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/03/23

Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

S30 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/13/23

Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/27/23

Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

S30 E2 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/13/23

Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

S30 E1 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/06/23

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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

Renee Shaw and guests discuss abortion legislation. Scheduled guests: State Representative Nancy Tate (R-Brandenburg); Tamarra Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates; Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life; and Jackie McGranahan, senior policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky. A 2024 KET production.

  • Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Kentucky Tonight - S30 E42

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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

  • Wednesday February 21, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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School Choice & Education Issues - S30 E40

  • Wednesday February 14, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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The State Budget - S30 E39

  • Wednesday February 7, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at Kentucky Colleges & Universities - S30 E38

  • Wednesday January 31, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Monday January 29, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
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Safer Kentucky Act - S30 E37

  • Wednesday January 24, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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