A balanced budget is always the first goal for the General Assembly’s 60-day session, and this year will be no different.
And every budget has its challenges, said Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.
“This year it’s a good news, bad news situation,” said Thayer who has served 17 years in the state senate where he is the majority leader. “The good news is our revenue is up, even more than expected.
“The bad news is fixed expenses continue to grow.”
The largest fixed expenses are Medicaid, pensions and corrections, the senator said.
One of Gov. Andy Beshear’s first moves after inauguration was to pull the plug on former Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to scale back Medicaid, returning an estimated 100,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. That will dramatically increase the state’s costs, Thayer said.
Pensions remain a challenge for Kentucky, but the opioid problem has placed a strain on the state’s corrections system.
“The number of deaths due to opioid use has decreased 17 percent this year, which indicates we are getting a handle on it,” he said. “But I think you will hear more discussions about treatment rather than putting people in prison for drug use.
“I think there is a policy shift in the criminal justice system regarding so-called ‘crimes against yourself’ such as drug use. More and more there is a leaning towards treatment instead of incarceration.”
Other priorities include tort reform, welfare reform and voter ID at the polls.
“There has been discussions with Attorney General Daniel Cameron about a bill to ban sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants,” Thayer said. “I think that will come up pretty quickly.”
Legislative leaders of both the House and Senate have met recently, and Thayer said he was encouraged by what he heard.
“We are united in our goal to continue to push conservative legislation, even though we have a Democratic governor,” Thayer said.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.