When Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) proposed his 2012–2013 budget this week, he admitted that it was “inadequate for the needs” of the state’s people. “We should be making substantial investments in our physical and intellectual infrastructure to bring transformational change to our state,” Beshear said. “This budget does not allow us to do enough of that.”
Beshear’s assessment of his own budget is, unfortunately, correct. The budget makes $286 million in cuts, including a 6.4 percent cut to a higher education system that has been plagued by funding cuts and rising tuition for years. And though it attempts to preserve K-12 education funding, it will result in less spending on Kentucky’s students and schools, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports:
Although the main funding formula for K-12 schools wouldn’t be cut, population growth means spending per student would decline. Also, education officials say the current year’s population estimate was low, resulting in a cut of more than $50 million to that funding formula.
At the same time, the $43 million tax break Kentucky approved for a Bible-themed amusement park — which will include a 500-foot by 75-foot reproduction of Noah’s Ark — could go into effect for the first time under Beshear’s budget. In addition, the budget includes $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the park. Proponents of the park, Beshear included, have claimed it will boost tourism and create jobs, but those assumptions are based on a report done by the park’s developers.
While Beshear’s budget isn’t guaranteed to pass as proposed, it will likely go through mostly unchanged. Unfortunately, that means lawmakers could jeopardize Kentucky’s substantial gains in K-12 education and ensure ballooning tuition rates at its colleges and universities, all while they preserve tax breaks for what critics have dubbed the “Ark Park.”