Legislators review session in Bowling Green

Shawntaye Hopkins

The state legislature hasn’t agreed on much during this year’s session, but four legislators did agree on one thing yesterday.

There is still work that needs finishing.

State legislators from south central Kentucky attempted yesterday to summarize this year’s legislative session for Bowling Green community members.

Legislators from the Bowling Green area discussed upcoming conference committee meetings, higher education funding and tax modernization during the legislative review session at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce.

The governmental relations committee of the chamber sponsored the session. Todd Dyer, chair of the committee, moderated.

The purpose of the event was to review the 2004 General Assembly and to inform the Bowling Green community about current legislative events, Dyer said.

Thomas, Rep. Steve Nunn, R-Glasgow, House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, and Sen. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said they are hopeful the conference committee will compromise on a budget.

April 15 is the deadline for the committee, which consists of House and Senate members, to create a single state budget. They will have their first meeting tomorrow.

President Gary Ransdell, who attended the session, said he did not hear anyone mention the Kentucky Academy of Math and Science.

The academy would allow high school juniors and seniors to earn their diplomas and also earn 60 credit hours at Western.

He said he still plans to work toward having the project placed into the final budget.

Ransdell said he was unable to attend the entire session.

“I think, with no question, higher education is not properly funded,” Richards said.

Students will continue to face double-digit tuition increases if universities don’t get more state funding, he said.

Nunn said he was very disturbed by recent tuition increase proposals at the University of Kentucky.

But neither Fletcher, the House nor the Senate proposed additional operating money for colleges and universities.

“I think that has to be a priority in the next budget cycle,” Guthrie said.

Richards said a tax modernization plan that grows with the economy is needed to create more revenue and help prevent tuition increases.

Both the House and Senate took some of the projects proposed by Fletcher out of their budget bills and put their own “twist to it,” Richards said.

“There are two or three projects at Western that have slipped out and they have to come back,” he said.

Richards said he would like to see the state authorize bonds for Western’s health center and the community college.

The Senate only authorized for these projects to be taken from Western’s restricted funds, he said.

One of the Senate’s priorities in funding projects was to give money for Western’s science buildings, Guthrie said.

The Senate proposed $27 million to renovate the Science and Technology Hall, the north and center wings of Thompson Complex, Hardin Planetarium and Snell Hall.

Legislators also discussed Fletcher’s tax plan and a bill banning same-sex marriages.

Richards said there are some things he agrees with in the plan and some things that could be changed.

The Senate attached the tax plan to its budget proposal.

Senate Bill 245 deals with same-sex marriages. It has been passed by the Senate and is currently pending in the House.

Richards said he agrees with the bill and believes Kentucky should send a clear message that it wants a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]