As the state continues to claw its way out of the recession, the recent budget reports offer some promising numbers. Fiscal year 2015 ended with a $165 million surplus, marking the fifth straight year of growth for Kentucky. Personal and business tax revenue exceeded projections. And the state’s rainy day fund is at its highest level since 2007.
Many economists are cautiously optimistic about the state’s financial outlook going into this fiscal year 2016. Preliminary figures from this summer show a strong start to the new fiscal year. State budget officials attribute much of the growth to higher-than-expected receipts from personal income and business taxes as well as Kentucky’s sales tax.
But those silver linings come with some dark clouds. Coal severance tax receipts continue to plummet. Lottery proceeds were $16.5 million lower than expected. Revenues from the gasoline tax have declined as fuel prices dropped. Pension shortfalls remain unresolved, and questions regarding the Medicaid expansion loom following the election of a new governor who reportedly has different views regarding the administration of the program.
Still, I’m hopeful that the legislative process, complicated and challenging as it may be, will yield a two-year spending plan that will continue the Commonwealth’s positive momentum forward.
Two of my local priorities for the session include a bill I have pre-filed that would make the survivors of emergency medical services providers and rescue squad members who are killed in the line of duty eligible for the state lump-sum death benefit and exempt them from tuition fees. Additionally, the bill would include the spouse or child of a permanently and totally disabled emergency medical services provider in the exemption of matriculation or tuition fees.
I’d also like to honor those who have served our country by designating U.S. 60 in Breckinridge County as the “Breckinridge County Veterans Memorial Highway” and to erect signage denoting this designation.
As we move toward the start of the 2016 session in January, the legislature’s schedule for committee meetings during the interim is winding to a close. Over the last several weeks, though, I’ve attended several meetings and events across the Commonwealth that have helped me keep me abreast of numerous issues of importance, both in my legislative district and throughout the Commonwealth.
For example, I attended the Kentucky School Board Association Second District Meeting in Webster County where I had an opportunity to visit with several members of the Hancock County School Board. It’s great to have Allen Kennedy of Hancock County as the president of the Kentucky School Boards Association. I also enjoyed serving as a guest speaker at a meeting in Owensboro attended by members of the Hancock County Retired Teachers Association. Later in Hawesville, I met with state Transportation Cabinet officials and members of the Immaculate Conception Church to discuss the bridge approach to the Ohio River bridge on Highway 69.
In Hardin County, I volunteered time to the Feeding America program and was moved by their numerous efforts to end hunger by supporting local food banks. At a special meeting of the Special Subcommittee on Energy in Fort Knox, I enjoyed learning more about the various steps that have been taken to increase security and readiness by bringing some of the facility’s power generation onsite and using renewable energy. This should help Fort Knox in several areas, including the next BRAC realignment.
In Louisville, I attended the 2015 AutoVision Conference presented by the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association. This event included lengthy discussions on the future of the automotive industry, which is so very important to our state. At the Labor and Management Conference at Kentucky Dam Village, we discussed new opportunities for both workers and managers to work together for the benefit of economic development and working families across the Commonwealth. Other events included the Autumn Days parade in Vine Grove, the legislature’s Banking and Insurance Committee in Lexington, the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management conference in Louisville, the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame dinner in Frankfort, and the Governor’s Post-Secondary Education conference in Lexington.
I enjoy sharing this information with you because my job is to best serve your interests. I look forward to continuing to serve you in the months ahead and encourage you to contact me with your information, advice and opinions on matters of importance to you. Please email me at [email protected] or call the legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181.
Dean Schamore is an entrepreneur and the founder/owner of Digital Connections Plus located in Hardinsburg in Breckinridge County. He served in the United States Navy and resides in Hardinsburg with his wife and two daughters. House District 10 includes Breckinridge, Hancock and portions of Hardin County.