Politics

A coalition of economic, education, health and advocacy groups is criticizing Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts — and instead, is pushing for “revenue raising tax reform.”

Bevin unveiled a two-year plan earlier this week that would cut most state spending by 6.25 percent and eliminate 70 programs mostly involving education, outreach and arts initiatives.

In a news release, Kentucky Together said budget cuts are not a practical solution to the state’s money issues.

“A decade of budget cuts have deeply strained the systems that keep us educated, healthy, safe and prosperous,” said Jason Bailey, executive director of the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a member of the coalition. “The current budget proposal is drastic in its cuts and it’s time for our leaders to stop letting billions slip away in tax breaks at the same time we erode our foundational public services.”

While the group praised Bevin’s budget for setting aside money for the state’s pensions, public defenders and social workers, it said the state needs to invest more in overall health care, including mental health and substance use disorders, and support for people living with disabilities.

Bailey said Bevin’s budget would make Kentucky’s money issues even worse.

“We see a big problem with all the budget cuts that we’ve had over the last decade in Kentucky, and that problem would be made much worse by the scale of the cuts that are included in the governor’s proposal,” Bailey said. “The budget’s the most powerful tool the state has to improve our quality of life, and a lot is at stake.”

Kentucky Together plans to lobby legislators to reform the state tax system and spread its message to Kentuckians across the state. Sheila Schuster, executive director of the Advocacy Action Network, said making Kentuckians aware is an important goal for the coalition.

“Look around in your community … think about what would happen if these public safety net organizations were not operational, and then think about how we need more revenue,” Schuster said. “[The current tax system] certainly does not generate enough revenue to meet the needs of Kentuckians.”

Bevin’s plan calls for nearly $200 million in cuts from the department of education’s budget, while funneling funds into the state’s pension, the Kentucky State Police and private prisons.

The governor also suggested closing the state’s film incentive program, which the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found was receiving millions in tax incentives.

Bailey and Schuster said those vacated tax incentives could be reinvested into other programs to offset proposed cuts.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.