Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the plan to make the University of Pikeville the ninth state university will not be derailed by the hectic session.
Stumbo is the main legislative supporter of the measure. And he says despite redistricting, expanded gambling legislation and other barriers or distractions, his bill will continue moving forward.
The latest step is a hearing today in the House Education Committee.
“And I think once people start hearing the facts on it, you know it’s one of those issues that make a lot of sense," Stumbo says. "There’s a need there and the funding mechanism’s there."
The proposal would move UPIKE into the state system using $13 million in coal severance tax funds. The tax is collected from companies that dig up coal or other natural resources in Kentucky, and some of the funds are distributed to the counties where the mining occurs.
Supporters of the UPIKE move say that the eastern Kentucky area where the private college is located is under-served and would benefit from having a public university.
Some eastern Kentucky public officials have spoken out against the measure. But Stumbo says since state money is being used to move UPIKE, it’s up to the legislature to decide its fate.
That means it’s up to the state legislature to decide whether to use coal severance tax money to complete the move this year, the speaker says.
“If we’re gonna let magistrates dictate public policy and I may, and I don’t want to embarrass anybody but their thought was, severance tax money was better used to build a dog shelter than a college," Stumbo said. "That’s [the magistrate's] opinion, but I think that it’s not their money, it’s the state’s money, this is a state resource that’s being depleted and the state legislature should determine how that money’s gonna be spent."
The last time the state moved a private university into the public system was in the 1970s, when the University of Louisville was made public.
The other public universities are the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Murray State University and Morehead State University.