By BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Ky. (AP) – Republicans at Kentucky House on Friday unveiled a two-year state budget plan that includes increased education spending and salary increases for state employees, deciding to don’t wait to hear the Democratic governor’s proposals in his budget speech due next week.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s office was caught off guard by the House’s GOP proposal. His spokesperson, Crystal Staley, said the plan fell short of the “breakthrough investments” the governor plans to recommend, including funding a universal preschool for all 4-year-olds.

House Democratic leaders called bringing the executive budget bill forward without input from the Beshear administration. Democrats said the timing of House Republicans “violates long-standing traditions and the spirit of the budget law itself.”

“We may as well wrap up the 2022 legislative session now, as all the major decisions have apparently been made,” Democratic Representatives Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton said in their statement. “It’s not a good government; in fact, it’s hardly a government at all.”

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The GOP spending plan reflects some of Beshear’s priorities, including salary increases for social workers and state police officers and dispatchers.

As a sign of bipartisan cooperation, Beshear signed a bill extending this year’s filing deadline for political candidates in Kentucky – a necessary step as lawmakers rush to complete the redistribution.

The measure moves the filing deadline to January 25 for this year only.

The budget bill was introduced by the Chairman of the House of Commons Budget Committee on the fourth day of the 60-day legislative session. The decision to move ahead of Beshear’s budget speech reflects the ability of GOP lawmakers to shape spending bills to their liking. Holding qualified majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans have the political power to override the governor’s veto.

House Appropriations and Revenues Chairman Jason Petrie said the budget plan he tabled offers a “strong and responsible approach consistent with the needs and obligations of our state.”

House GOP’s proposal would increase the level of per-student funding under SEEK, the state’s primary funding formula for K-12 schools. The amount would rise to $ 4,100 in the first fiscal year and $ 4,200 in the second year, according to a press release from House Republican.

Also under the plan, the state would continue to cover the full cost of full-time kindergarten. Earlier this year, the legislature allocated public funds to pay for full-time kindergarten, but the additional spending was limited to a single school year.

The plan would increase the amount of state funding for transportation costs to local school districts.

On the issue of increasing teacher salaries, a top priority for Beshear since his campaign for governor, Petrie said, “We have chosen to allocate resources to local districts and allow them to create their own. plans to increase, as many have already used other sources. of income to do so. “

The governor said in his speech on the state of the Commonwealth this week that his budget proposal would include “historic investments” in education, a pay rise for state employees and investments to boost growth economic.

As to when the GOP’s spending plan was released, Staley said: “Neither the executive branch nor the governor has been alerted or consulted.”

The House Republicans’ plan calls for a 6% pay hike for public employees in the next fiscal year, according to the press release. This would require the Secretary of State for Personnel to develop a plan to review the classification of public employees for funding purposes in the second year.

It proposes a salary increase of $ 15,000 for state police and motor vehicle inspectors and an increase of $ 8,000 for dispatch carriers. It would offer a salary increase and retention payment for social workers and fund 200 new social worker positions over the two years to alleviate chronic staff shortages. Beshear also prioritized pay increases for state police and social workers.

Leading lawmakers want to return to the tradition of adopting a two-year budget, after uncertainties from the COVID-19 pandemic led to one-year budgets in each of the past two years.

Unlike in previous years, when state revenues were slow or uncertain due to economic conditions, Kentucky found itself inundated with money. Beyond the usual disagreements over how to spend government money, conflicts are likely over how much of the surplus to spend.

Meanwhile, legislation extending this year’s filing deadline for applicants came into effect after the governor’s signature. Without swift legislative action, candidates are expected to have filed their cases by Friday – before the new legislative and congressional maps for Kentucky go into effect.

Beshear said Thursday that “people need to know what their quarters will be.”

Lawmakers hope to wrap up the redistribution work in a rare Saturday session by sending the measures to the governor. The question dominated the first days of the session.

The redistribution measures authorized another round of committee reviews on Friday, paving the way for final votes on Saturday in the House and Senate. The redesigned boundaries reflect months of behind-the-scenes work by top Republican lawmakers.

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