Governor Matt Bevin’s budget speech Tuesday night contained some sobering news for those in the higher education community.
Governor Bevin’s first budget plan calls for cuts to state cabinets and higher ed by 9% each over the next two years.
The proposal caught Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson a bit off guard.
“Well I think we’re all kind of stunned," Benson said. "We had heard a cut was coming, but nothing to the magnitude of what we heard tonight."
Bevin is also asking universities to cut 4.5% out of the current year budget, something Western Kentucky University President Gary Ransdell called ‘daunting.’
Murray State University President Bob Davies sent an email to MSU students, faculty and staff following the budget address:
"Over the past decade our state funding has continually declined. Despite these challenging circumstances, we have worked to be good stewards of our scarce resources. The proposed 4.5 percent rescission for FY16 represents $2.16 million of our operating budget. The proposed base reduction for FY17 would be 9 percent or a $4.32 million recurring reduction.
I want to emphasize, this is only the beginning of these statewide budget discussions. Over the next several weeks I will be actively lobbying for continued support of higher education and our mission to serve the great state of Kentucky.
Our leadership team has been preparing for an anticipated budget challenge by discussing various scenarios and the possibility of difficult financial decisions ahead. We must remain focused on our vision to be one of the best student-centered, comprehensive universities in the nation. "
University presidents are expected to have a conference call with the governor Wednesday morning.
Bevin is suggesting adding money for more social workers, public defenders, and more than $12 million to up state trooper pay.
Trooper Robert Shoultz says more officers are needed.
“A lot of our guys are retiring out as soon as they get 20 years on, so our starting pay needs to be raised as well so we can attract more qualified candidates so we can raise out compliment," Shoultz explained. "Because we’re low right now."
In his address, Governor Bevin also talked about borrowing $100 million to support workforce development capital.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Adkisson says the details of how to spend those funds are still to come.
“I know that he wants to try to incentivize local communities and other institutions to try to step and create creative workforce development programs," Adkisson said. "He wants to use the hundred million dollars to incentivize that."
Bevin says the overall objective is to graduate more skilled workers. While proposing cuts to higher education, he suggests funding for secondary and elementary education be maintained. He also told lawmakers he wants to see all lottery proceeds go to education. Bevin says past practices of sweeping funds from various pots of money must stop.