Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor's Funding Vetoes

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April 15, 2018

In a win for the state's teachers, the Kentucky legislature has voted to override the state's governor's vetoes of bills sent to him for approval.

Gov. Matt Bevin had vetoed a state budget and tax increase that were both approved by both the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate, saying that they lacked fiscal responsibility, while also signing a bill that amounted to cutting pensions for first-time teachers.

In response to the announcement of the pension reform bill, which was actually part of a wastewater treatment bill that was introduced in committee and then was passed by both houses in just one day (a rare short-time approval for a budget bill in most stage legislatures), Kentucky teachers by the thousands descended on the statehouse in Frankfurt to air their concerns. The crowds grew larger after the governor's vetoes.

The legislature convened for the last two days of its term in the shadow of the thousands-strong protest and voted to override the governor's veto. It was a somewhat rare rebuke from members of the same political party. Kentucky state law required only a simple majority for a veto override. In the 100-member House, the vote to override the tax plan was 57–40 and to override the budget plan was 66–28. The Senate's veto votes were 20–18 for the tax plan and 25–12 fo the budget plan.

The budget includes funding for a school safety program and increases annual per-pupil funding in education from $3,700 to $4,000– still considerably lower than where it was a decade ago. The state also assumes funding responsibility for transportation and employee health insurance costs; originally, local school districts were tasked with paying for those. The budget does not include any money for textbooks or for teacher professional development; also, the budget cuts preschool, university, and extended school services by 6.25 percent.

The $480 million tax plan sharply increases the tax on cigarettes and also includes taxes on services such as landscaping, pet grooming, and janitorial work–while giving a tax cut of an average of $7,000 to the richest Kentucky residents.

The pension reform bill, meanwhile, is the basis of legal action by the state's attorney general, Andy Beshear, who is suing to stop enforcement of the law.

The Kentucky protest took place on the same day as a large gathering in Oklahoma's capital city; teachers in Oklahoma were still protesting what they say is underfunded education in that state. Those teachers have since ended their walkout.

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