Leaders of Kentucky’s two largest universities warned lawmakers Thursday that Gov. Bevin’s proposed spending cuts would eliminate crucial programs and scholarships that benefit Kentuckians and attract businesses to the state.
Bevin has proposed cutting most state spending by 6.25 percent and eliminating 70 programs — many of which are in higher education.
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said that combined, the cuts add up to a little more than $26 million and would be equal to the school’s state funding 23 years ago.
“Public health interventions are usually invisible,” Capilouto said. “And many of the activities I’ve described today fall into that category. We have a responsibility to protect our fellow citizens.”
Bevin’s budget would eliminate a lung cancer research program that UK runs with the University of Louisville and an ovarian cancer screening program.
The proposed spending plan also eliminates funding for University Press, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and UK’s Robinson Scholars Program, which offers scholarships to first-generation eastern Kentuckians.
University of Louisville Interim President Greg Postel said that the cuts would take the school back to 1998 funding levels.
“We find ourselves in a situation where we have created the infrastructure and the programs as requested, but now have less than optimal funding in order to keep them intact,” Postel said.
U of L’s Autism Training Center would be eliminated under Bevin’s plan. Postel said that the school would also have to delay several capital projects, including renovations of two dorms and three Science Technology and Math buildings.
“The buildings that house those programs are filled to capacity,” Postel said. “The facilities need to be modernized and they need to be expanded if we’re going to grow enrollment in engineering.”
Bevin has advocated for increasing the number of engineers that graduate out of Kentucky’s universities.
Kentucky’s regional universities will present their own reactions to Bevin’s budget proposal later in the legislative session.
Rep. Jim DeCesare, a Republican from Bowling Green, said that the governor’s proposal was just a “conversation starter.”
“But understanding that we have fiscal constraints it’s not going to be pretty,” DeCesare said. “But I think we can craft a budget that will keep things intact for all our universities.”
The state House of Representatives will come up with a new budget proposal in the coming weeks and then the Senate will pass its own version.
A final budget will have to pass both legislative chambers before being signed into law by Bevin.