Thursday, January 24, 2002

Arena? No money for that, says governor

Gloomy budget speech has 'can't afford' list

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Gov. Paul Patton has made it clear: Kentucky can't afford it right now.

        “There are no community development projects; no arena for northern Kentucky, no money for the Center for Women and Families in Louisville, or no money for the Clay Community Center in Mount Sterling, or for any of the hundreds of other recreational, service or life-safety facilities that our communities need and you legislators want to provide for your constituents,” Mr. Patton said in his budget address Tuesday night.

    How the money is spent in broad areas under Gov. Paul Patton's proposed General Fund budget for 2002-04.
    • Total: $14.4 billion.
    • Education: 42.1 percent.
    • Other: 18.6 percent.
    • Postsecondary education: 16.3 percent.
    • Medicaid: 10.7 percent.
    • Human services: 8.2 percent.
    • Corrections: 4.1 percent.
    Note: “Other” includes the judicial and legislative branches, natural resources, law enforcement, parks etc.
        “Nothing for the fairgrounds, nothing to complete our golf courses under construction, and nothing for the proposed regional business park in the Purchase. The fact of the matter is that we just don't have the money!”

        The governor told legislators his budget proposal keeps the promises made with programs from the past but makes little progress for the future.

        Much of Mr. Patton's budget address outlined what it did not do — finance improvements in education, few water and sewer line improvements, build community development projects or even follow up on commitments for continuing projects.

        But the budget also does not force cuts on education, require layoffs or create a deficit, Mr. Patton said.

        “This proposal has no new programs. It also doesn't have any substantial cuts of essential services. It spends down our reserves. It doesn't have a deficit. That's the best balance I can achieve under these adverse fiscal conditions,” Mr. Patton said in remarks prepared for delivery to a joint session of the House and Senate.

        While he acknowledged that the General Assembly will have the final say on what money gets spent where, Mr. Patton warned against too much tinkering.

        “I ask for you to not raise expectations of more money for important programs without providing a source of that money. I call upon the leaders of each body of the legislature to join with me and not allow the passage of a law calling for an expenditure which is not in the budget and to resist those who try, regardless of party,” Mr. Patton said.

        He also advised against any raiding of the state's rainy day fund, which has been eyed by some legislators.

        “We don't use any of the remaining $120 million in the trust fund because to budget this money to fund ongoing expenses would be the worse of all fiscal policies and would in fact be a mockery of the principle of a reserve fund. I will resist all efforts to use any of this money,” Mr. Patton said.

        Mr. Patton's own budget envisions spending nearly $200 million in ongoing expenses with money from sources that will not be replenished. He said that was a sound, albeit unfortunate, practice dictated by the poor economy.

        “It's a sound, humane policy, if used temporarily to keep from cutting services that our people have come to depend on,” Mr. Patton said.

        Mr. Patton lamented the lack of money to finance the kinds of projects that have been sprinkled around the state in recent budgets.

        Mr. Patton said the budget does include more money for prison beds and parole officers. “We can't tell judges to impose stiffer sentences and then refuse to provide prison space.”


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