As I said in January, this is the most difficult budget I have ever crafted, and it will be the most difficult for our state to endure. However, I am pleased that the state legislature has kept my budget proposal largely intact -- a signal that our management decisions and investments in the health and education of Kentuckians are wise ones.
This budget funds SEEK, the main funding formula for K-12 education, at my recommended level. It maintains funding for Medicaid and corrections, two of the largest budget expenditures.
Perhaps most importantly, legislators recognized the significance of making key investments in our future. Legislators approved my plan to reduce crushing social worker caseloads by hiring more staff in the area of child abuse and neglect, and funded my proposal to provide colon cancer screenings to some 4,000 uninsured Kentuckians. Legislators agreed with me that we must invest in aggressive drug abuse treatment, and did so by funding Medicaid treatment programs for addiction. Finally, the funding of an elder abuse registry will help protect senior citizens from unfit caretakers.
While I am disappointed that additional funds to expand preschool to more 4-year-olds did not pass the legislature, I am encouraged that more of our elected officials are aware of the critical need to invest in these young students. I will continue to work to find ways to make not only preschool more accessible, but to make sure all our children enter school ready to learn and succeed.
Enactment of the budget is a major milestone; however, much hard work and many hard decisions lie ahead to provide state services to our citizens over the next two years. State programs will have to find ways to cut $286 million (8.4 percent) in spending in the first year of the biennium, with no increase in the second year. In addition, we will be required to find as much as $80 million in additional cuts. These cuts are on top of the 25 to 35 percent cuts that have been absorbed by most state agencies over the past four years.
As the economy continues to recover, we believe the steps we have taken over the past several years to manage our budget wisely will position us well for job growth and economic opportunities."