VIEWS CONTRIBUTORS EXPRESS HERE ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEWS OF CLAYCONEWS
Op-Ed Contributor: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
FRANKFORT, KY - In a press conference Tuesday, a coalition of Kentucky organizations called on state lawmakers to take advantage of billions of available dollars to pass a budget that delivers for the people of Kentucky.
Members of Kentucky Together, which includes dozens of labor, health, education and community organizations (the full list is available below), gathered in the Capitol Annex on the first day of the 2024 legislative session and pointed to the unique moment Kentucky finds itself in.
“Years of inadequate budgets that fail to prioritize the people of Kentucky have left the commonwealth with many unmet needs,” said Natalie Cunningham, Outreach Director for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “The good news is we have the money to begin meeting these needs.”
Over the past several years, Kentucky lawmakers have stockpiled $3.7 billion in the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, which is commonly called the rainy day fund. That’s more than double what’s needed to protect against future economic downturns. Billions more will be added to those idle reserves over the next few years unless they are directed to meet more of Kentuckians’ pressing needs.
Wesley Bryant, a Letcher County resident whose home was in the path of 2022’s devastating eastern Kentucky floods, highlighted some of those needs. “There are about 3,000 people who are homeless due to the floods,” said Bryant, whose family of seven has not been able to return to their home since the flooding. “And I’ve got a question: Are we forgotten about? Are we lost in the shuffle? Or are we just a new statistic?”
“Lawmakers could change the lives of my family and the rest of eastern Kentucky by using state dollars to finally help those of us who were impacted by the floods,” he said. “We need funding for housing recovery and mental health, and we still desperately need supplies.”
Andrea Zang, a tenant organizer in Lexington, said renters in her community and across the commonwealth face immense difficulties when trying to find affordable and safe housing. The state should step in and help, she said.
“We need meaningful investment from Kentucky into affordable housing,” Zang said. “The state government has a huge surplus this year. Several hundred million dollars of that surplus should go straight to affordable housing.”
Other issues highlighted during the press conference included the need for mental health supports in schools, the need for a cost of living raise for state retirees and the need to increase funding for public education. The coalition’s website, KentuckyTogether.org, includes suggestions for many other ways the state budget can deliver for the people.
Watch Tuesday’s press conference in its entirety at Facebook.com/KyPolicy.
About Kentucky Together
To make a better Kentucky, we must invest in people, communities and our economy through vital public services. Kentucky Together is a coalition of labor, health, education and community organizations that believes the path to prosperity is abundance, not austerity.
Advocacy Action Network
Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center
Center for Accessible Living
Community Action Council
Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky
Jefferson County Teachers Association
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Kentucky Association of School Superintendents
Kentucky Association of Transportation Engineers
Kentucky Association of School Councils
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Conservation Committee
Kentucky Education Association
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
Kentucky Equal Justice Center
Kentucky Government Retirees
Kentucky Mental Health Coalition
Kentucky Public Retirees
Kentucky Retired Teachers Association
Kentucky State AFL-CIO
Kentucky Sustainable Business Council
Kentucky Transportation Employees’ Association
Kentucky Voices for Health
Kentucky’s Voice for Early Childhood
National Association of Social Workers — Kentucky
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU
Owensboro NAACP Branch 3107
The Women’s Network
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
433 Chestnut Street, Berea, KY 40403
The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization conducting research, analysis and education on important policy issues facing the Commonwealth. For more information, please visit KyPolicy’s website at www.kypolicy.org.