Fletcher will propose budget tonight to state legislators

Shawntaye Hopkins

Kentuckians will know Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s budget plans for the state’s next fiscal year tonight, but some have already gained insight into those plans.

Fletcher spoke at the Kentucky Press Association convention in Lexington on Friday about the budget that he will present to the General Assembly at 7 p.m.

Fletcher defended higher education budget cuts in his speech, saying the schools – like other state institutions – could work more efficiently.

“We’re going to be a lot more efficient after we go through this budget cut,” President Gary Ransdell said. “But I would prefer not to go through some of these efficiencies. But we’re going to.”

All universities are dealing with the cuts differently, Ransdell said. Some universities are making across-the-board cuts.

“I don’t see where across-the-board cutting makes any more efficiencies at all,” Ransdell said.

Kentuckians were promised that taxes would not be increased, Fletcher said.

“My dad taught me to keep my word,” Fletcher said.

The state’s 3 cent per pack tobacco tax may be considered for increases, he said. A tobacco tax increase wouldn’t cover the state’s $300 million shortfall, he said.

Fletcher also said he wants to modernize Kentucky’s tax systems, but doesn’t want to make cuts and tax reforms during the same year.

Robbin Taylor, director of government relations for Western, said there are ways to modernize the tax system – by raising some taxes, lowering some taxes and creating new taxes – that are revenue neutral, but will help the economy grow.

Ransdell said it is human nature for people to say they don’t want taxes raised, but they probably didn’t think it would affect higher education.

Taylor said she hopes Kentuckians don’t believe the state will fix its revenue problems without the Fletcher administration making some tax reforms.

Western will also have to deal with changes.

“We’ll do the best we can to minimize the pain, but there will be pain,” she said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]