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Statement on Governor Beshear’s 2024 State Budget Address

Executive director Dr. Terry Brooks weighs in with an initial analysis of the Governor’s budget proposal.

4 min read

Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

It's become almost a cliché and yet it is very true. A budget is really not about dollars and cents but rather a profound statement of values and priorities. So, what can we learn about Governor Beshear's vision for Kentucky's kids in his second term from tonight's state budget address?

First, tonight’s budget proposal underscores what we already knew – this Administration places a high and principled value on bettering the lives of children in the Commonwealth. And that value is shown in real fiscal commitments in multiple domains of well-being. It is important to note that we expect the same robust levels of “kid commitment” from the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate in their own budget proposals during the 2024 General Assembly.

If we want a true understanding of the Governor's budget proposal, it will take some time and no small degree of acumen. We fully intend to do just that in the coming days and will be offering a more discreet review in the near future. But there are several clear and obvious key take-aways from tonight’s “Forward Together” address. These include among the following:

  • The Beshear Administration rightfully understands that THE key issue around our K-12 school system is staff recruitment, retention, and supports. We strongly endorse his proposed 11% pay raise for all the players in Kentucky's schools and would encourage the General Assembly to match its rhetoric on the issue with bucks on the table.

    Let's be candid on this issue and perhaps anticipatory of the legislature’s reaction to the pay raise proposal. Legislative leaders have dodged the pay raise issue in the past few sessions by talking about local control. However, the actions taken by the General Assembly over the past three sessions clearly show that its long-standing fidelity to local control is a thing of the past. School districts lost their locus of authority on issues from school safety to social agenda topics as legislators have become education managers of late. Therefore, the General Assembly default argument that increased SEEK dollars are the vehicle for local districts to address their workforce issue simply does not hold water. Instead of task forces and committee hearings on the teacher shortage, the General Assembly should work hand in glove with Governor Beshear and address this classroom crisis through a straight-forward budget item to raise compensation for everyone who works in Kentucky’s schools.
  • Another aspect of this budget proposal is the most pragmatic of notions – fund what you should fund in an honorable way. Increased transportation funding for schools may not grab a headline but many parents across the state have come to understand the impact of underfunding this feature of schools. Let’s hope that the very legislators who have been taking shots at school systems for transportation woes shift their tactics and again, put their money where their mouths have been. Fund school transportation as you should.
  • Universal pre-K is a goal that aspires and inspires. Yet, the reality remains that our first and focused priority in early childhood education is child care. Given the forthcoming elimination of federal supports sustaining our child care system — which was already in a crisis before this pandemic-related help — we need investment in a strong and sustainable child care infrastructure for our kids, families, and local economies. Let’s get the workforce that supports the rest of the workforce secure and then begin to look at mixed delivery innovations and investments.
  • There is no question that Kentucky's juvenile justice system is a “house on fire.” Along with the attention to detention centers in terms of facilities, the Governor acutely sees that high-quality diversion programming is the key to genuinely improving the system. By going upstream as this budget will allow, we can better protect public safety, get kids who have made a mistake back on the right track, and begin building an environment that prevents kids getting into trouble in the first place. Practice and policy reforms are required to turn around the juvenile justice system but the Governor’s budget is an important catalyst.
  • The Governor makes a bold and vital commitment to Kentucky’s most vulnerable. The proposal includes key investments in children with special needs through expansion of the Michelle P. and Supports for Community Living waiver programs. As well as an encouraging commitment around kinship and foster care. It’s a real positive to see a deepened investment in the thousands of relative caregivers and foster parents who step up everyday to provide a safe and caring home for kids who no longer can stay with their mom and dad.
  • There is a quiet and quickly growing pandemic gripping Kentucky and it has nothing to do with a virus – it is homelessness. It affects 1 out of every 14 Kentucky kids younger than six. The Governor’s proposed investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund can be a catalyst to confront this issue that’s impacted so many communities across the Commonwealth.

As referenced earlier, a thorough discussion of this budget requires more time than a “same night” statement. And certainly there are areas not referenced tonight that merit attention. For example, what if proven tax strategies – like a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit or a Child Tax Credit – were enacted in tandem with this budget to mitigate the troubling trend lines in childhood poverty? What deeper investments are required to continue to go upstream to prevent kids from experiencing abuse and neglect? And are there line items that can continue to move the needle on issues like child mental health, adverse childhood experiences, and food security?

As cautionary as an immediate analysis must be, the overarching reflection on this budget is clear. Andy Beshear is matching his rhetoric around kids with thoughtful, relevant, focused, and deep budget commitments. Here’s to hoping that the General Assembly matches that kind of moral and political leadership in those coming legislative budget proposals – and in the final two-year state budget by the fall of the gavel on April 15th.


Learn more about the 2024 Blueprint for Kentucky's Children state policy and budget priorities at

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Forward Kentucky

The editorial board of Forward Kentucky. Articles under this author name have been written, edited, and approved by a number of the contributors on this site, as well as the publisher.

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