Week 10 of the 2022 Legislative Session | Opinion

As time progresses, the 2022 biennial state budget also progresses as various state budget bills (executive, legislative, and judicial) reached significant milestones in week 10.

The state senate has officially put its stamp on the most significant budget bill, the biennial executive’s budget, which is House Bill 1. (SCS 1) to HB 1.

The two chambers will begin budget negotiations in a conference committee, which should take place as early as next week. The two chambers select members to enter budget negotiations over their differences so that the final product can be agreed upon. SCS 1 through HB 1 reflects the Senate Majority’s acute understanding that every penny entrusted to Frankfort came from an investment of time and energy by every Kentucky taxpayer.

Highlights of the Senate budget include:

Salary increases for state employeesA $4,500 increase in the first year of the budget for state employees, which equates to a 10% increase for employees in positions earning $45,000. The state finds many positions more difficult to fill and retain without increasing the cost of living over time. The second year will also include a similar amount of increase, but will be dependent on a staff cabinet study that will focus on work environment, merit, locality and job impacts.

These considerations will also be applied in increases for the Kentucky State Police. Each soldier will receive a minimum salary increase of $15,000.

Social workers will receive an increase of $4,800 in the first year, then a 10% increase in the second year. These increases are in addition to the 10% increase they received effective December 16, 2021 by Governor’s Order. An important part of this Senate budget, and a reflection of the caseload of social workers, is to provide an alternative work program for those who have worked at least four years with the state. This will provide another work opportunity which will help to combat employee burnout, heavy workload and emotional exhaustion in the profession.

Boosts the state’s Rainy Day Fund, also known as the Fiscal Reserve Trust Fund, to $1.756 billion.

Leaves a conservative balance of $1.3 billion after the biennium, providing the state with fiscal flexibility

The Senate budget accomplishes all of this while including the chamber’s tax rebate plan for Kentucky workers, $500 for single filers and $1,000 for households.

Investments in educationIncreases per-student funding to $4,100 in year one (from $4,000) and up to $4,200 in year two and provides funding for school construction and maintenance. Previously allocated federal dollars became ineligible for school infrastructure funding following the Biden administration’s policy shift after Kentucky already allocated those funds last year.

Increases state reimbursement of inmate per diems to county jails by $4, reducing the burden on local jails that house state inmates.

I will keep you posted as the budget negotiations lead to something more concrete. Please know that Senate District 5 remains my priority as we strive to maximize the taxpayer dollars you have entrusted to your Senators.

In addition to these significant budget efforts, other notable legislation passed in the Senate last week includes:

Senate Bill 216 builds on election integrity efforts implemented in SB 4 of the 2020 legislative session and bipartisan election reform SB 574 in 2021. SB 216 expands the Attorney General’s Office’s independent investigation into election irregularities potential to include as many as 12 random Kentucky counties. It implements measures to prevent voter fraud by removing credit or debit cards as a viable form of voter identification and prohibits a voting system from being connected to any network, including the Internet, or any external device. Additionally, it requires all voting machines to use paper ballots by Jan. 1, 2024, and removes Kentucky’s secretary of state as chair of the State Board of Elections. After the breach of trust, the former secretary of state was rightly removed from his role as chairman of the board.

Senate Bill 189, which I have personally sponsored, will allow small amalgamating fire services to establish a fire hall to allow rural services to retain all of the assistance that each amalgamating service would have received prior to amalgamation. As you know, I am a champion of our rural communities, and this bill is about helping out our rural fire districts.

Senate Bill 205 is Kentucky’s answer to big banks and investment firms refusing loans and investments in fossil fuel companies that promote “green” investments and political agendas. The coal industry has been a vital part of Kentucky’s economy for over 100 years and has provided affordable energy and good jobs for countless citizens of our Commonwealth. This concerted effort to financially starve the fossil fuel industry contributes significantly to high fuel and energy costs, causing extreme financial hardship for hard-working Kentuckians. SB 205 makes it clear that Kentucky stands with our fossil fuel companies and the Kentuckians who work every day to produce the resources that fuel our nation.

The bill requires the Kentucky State Treasurer to maintain a list of financial companies that boycott the fossil fuel industry and to share that list with Kentucky government agencies that make substantial financial investments, such as state pension funds. These government agencies are required to divest from investments in financial companies that refuse to stop boycotting. Kentucky will not invest public funds in financial corporations that have declared war on our coal and fossil fuel industry by adopting a political philosophy that will continue to drive up fuel and energy costs and put our electric grid trustworthy at risk.

As always, it is an honor to represent the residents of the 5th District here in our Commonwealth’s capital. If you have any questions or comments on these or any other public policy issues, please contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at [email protected] gov. You can also view the work of the Legislature online at www.legislature.ky.gov.

Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) represents the 5th Senate District, which includes Breckinridge, Butler, Grayson, Ohio and Meade counties. He is Chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources and Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committees on Health and Welfare and Veterans Affairs, Military Affairs and Public Protection. Meredith is also co-chair of the Government Contracts Review Committee and the Medicaid Advisory and Oversight Committee. Finally, he is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Appropriations and Revenues.

Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) represents the 5th Senate District, which includes Breckinridge, Butler, Grayson, Ohio and Meade counties. He is Chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources and Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committees on Health and Welfare and Veterans Affairs, Military Affairs and Public Protection. Meredith is also co-chair of the Government Contracts Review Committee and the Medicaid Advisory and Oversight Committee. Finally, he is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Appropriations and Revenues.

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