We have had a challenging year. Together, we have witnessed a global pandemic that has threatened the health and financial well-being of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. More than 5,000 families, like mine, mourn loved ones, and countless others mourn friends and neighbors. Many of our communities have suffered devastating ice storms and floods. Our small businesses struggled. Put simply, Kentuckians need help.
Governor Beshear provided lawmakers with a balanced and responsible budget that would provide relief to so many people in need right now. His focus is not just on bringing relief now, but investing in the people of our Commonwealth, betting that a strengthened Kentucky economy can create a better future for all of us.
In an all-too-familiar refrain, the Republicans in Frankfurt decided to leave the people of this community instead of playing political games instead of providing much-needed aid to families, small business owners, and our communities in Kentucky.
Thanks to wise decisions and good conduct, Beshear made a one-time grant to lawmakers of $ 600 million. Beshear recommended sending these dollars to where they were needed most: directly to Kentuckians.
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Instead, what did the Republicans decide with that money? Tax breaks of at least $ 650 million for those at the top. Millions distracted from our public schools. And over $ 700 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which had already reached record levels of funding under Beshear.
As Governor Beshear likes to say, if this isn’t a rainy day I don’t know what it is.
The GOP budget completely lacks vision and we don’t invest in our people when they need it most.
Rather than helping small businesses, the Republican budget eliminates Beshear’s $ 220 million investment in direct aid to individuals and businesses in Kentucky, eliminates Beshear’s investment in local health departments, and introduces profound cuts in health insurance for Kentuckians in need amid a global crisis public health.
The GOP budget also continues its war on public education, gifting the rich with vouchers that steal valuable dollars from school districts – often one, if not the largest employers in a county – and those dollars from private schools with little to no money send accountability. Gone are Beshear’s investments in our children, including increasing the SEEK formula and spending dollars on textbooks and technology. Gone are the necessary investments in recruiting and retaining the educators who moved heaven and earth to provide for our children in this crisis. Rather than supporting public education, the GOP has chosen to declare war on the voices of students and educators, without missing the opportunity to use their power to silence those who dare to tell the truth to power say.
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Republicans unable to fight spouse abuse within their own ranks even cut the governor’s assignment to the Domestic Violence Intervention Services, funding the Women’s Commission, and funding equal pay audits between local ones Governments. The Republican budget also prevents the Energy and Environment Cabinet from hiring mine safety inspectors who are part of the Commonwealth’s mine rescue teams and continues their assault on the health, safety and wellbeing of Kentucky miners.
The Republican budget is irresponsible, unnecessarily cruel, selfish, and yet on the mark for what the Republican Party has become – a party whose only motivation is power, seeking political retribution, and not impressed by whoever hurts is.
And when they weren’t working on their completely boring budget proposal, they did what they did best: attack the governor and deprive him of the ability to respond to the pandemic just because they don’t like him.
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In one of the most blatant takeovers we’ve seen, the Republicans decided to stop Beshear from allocating funds from the American bailout plan without their consent, rather than working with him to get those funds out quickly. This will delay the process of vital relief to the struggling Kentuckians and small businesses, and serves no other purpose than to politicize our recovery in the hope that the governor will convene a special session and that they will be able to spend valuable tax dollars at our expense to fill their pockets.
A budget is a manifestation of your priorities. In one budget we have a governor who invests in the people of this Commonwealth to make sure we are ready to win the future. In the Republican budget, we see a party that is out of touch, connected to its own guerrilla playbook, and ready to make the Kentucky people suffer, only to face a Democratic governor again for daring difficult decisions meet and save lives.
They are more focused on punishing the governor than on helping all of us – and the Commonwealth – recover and rebuild better. Kentucky deserves better.
Colmon Elridge is the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.