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Local News

Beshear Announces Proposed Cuts to Current Budget

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear unveils his plan for reducing a huge deficit in the current state budget.

This is the second time this fiscal year and the sixth time since he took office in 2007 that Gov. Beshear has been forced to cut spending. He needs to raise 108-million dollars and to get there, most state agencies will see three-percent cuts.

“Initially we thought we might have to cut another six percent,” says Beshear. “The revision means impacted agencies will only see cuts of three percent.”

The governor is also using federal stimulus dollars and excess funds to balance the budget.

In February, Beshear plans to return 30-to-40-million dollars in excess education funds to local districts. That should more than cover the three-percent cuts in education that are outside of basic school funding.

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Local News

Daniels Orders Budget Cuts

Indiana tax collections continue to fall short of projections, and that has prompted Governor Mitch Daniels to order spending cuts and other steps to offset a budget shortfall.

Daniels says revenues are off more than $300 million thus far this fiscal year, and if the trend continues without cuts, the state’s reserves will be wiped out by next August.

The governor is directing state agencies to cut spending by ten-percent, reducing reimbursements to some Medicaid providers and says the state will offer voluntary unpaid leave for the rest of the fiscal year.

Daniels says he doesn’t know yet if there will be any job cuts.

“Up to this point, we have managed economy in state government with few if any involuntary terminations, except for poor performance. I can’t say that will remain the case here. We’re going to try our very best. If anyone is displaced, we will put them at the front of the line for any openings that occur in state government,” Daniels said

Daniels says there will also be no pay hikes for state workers in 2010.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Advocates: Cuts to Arts Theatens Cultural Heritage

A proposed cut to the Kentucky Arts Council’s budget worries arts groups, even though it’s part of across-the-board cuts for state agencies for the fiscal year starting July 1. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Gov. Steve Beshear has proposed cutting the Kentucky Arts Council’s budget by about 2.6 percent. The Kentucky legislature will consider it in the upcoming special session.

The cut if added to previous ones would reduce the council’s budget by more than 20 percent, says David Cupps of the advocacy group Arts Kentucky. Cupps warns further cuts to such a small agency could have serious consequences.

“If these cuts and shortfall continue in significant ways like they’ve been trending, our culture heritage is at stake,” Cupps says. “We’ve got to keep as much art funding as we possibly can because we’re also talking about maintaining the cultural heritage we have as Kentuckians.”

Cupps says pervious cuts have been passed onto local arts groups throughout the state that are also coping with previous public funding cuts and falling donations. The situation has forced many to reduce staff, programs, performances and exhibitions.

“They’re trying their very best to make sure that it is not very noticeable to the public, that the programs and the performances that they have still keep up to the highest standards that they can,” Cupps says. And I think the public is going to see that there are fewer activities to take their children to and cutbacks in certain performances.”

Several Louisville groups have curtailed offerings, including Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Louisville Orchestra. The Speed Art Museum is creating more exhibits from its own collection of works.

Cupps says some groups will receive some help with money the Arts Council will distribute from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“They’re making available some grants from the stimulus funds that the NEA is providing through the Kentucky Arts Council,” Cupps says. “And some of those panels are going on now so that they can pass out funds from the NEA to help bolster some of those arts organizations.”

But Cupps says these NEA funds aren’t a long-term solution to for arts funding and that the state and groups need to look for more ideas and solutions preserve the state’s cultural heritage.

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Local News

Plymouth Center Raising Funds To Stay Open

Officials at a west Louisville neighborhood center that’s on the brink of shutting down because
of budget cuts have launched a strategic plan to raise some cash.

It’s led by Markham French, executive director of the Plymouth Community Renewal Center, which serves residents of the Russell neighborhood.

“We’re going to go to the community, community members, business leaders, churches and we’re trying to raise 50,000 dollars by June 30.”

French says the Plymouth center has had to cut staff and some services because of a 47 percent drop in funding from the state, city and private sources.

Among other services, the center provides after-school and tutoring programs for youngsters, and operates a food pantry that fills 600 requests each month.

Donations to the center can be made through PNC Bank.

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Local News

Hearing Tomorrow For Engine 7 Case

The dispute over the closure of an Old Louisville fire station continues in court Tuesday.

The Engine 7 fire station was closed on January 11th.   The move has drawn objections and a lawsuit from residents who claim their safety will be jeopardized.

The fire department says Old Louisville is adequately protected by six other fire stations. Based on that data, the mayor decided to close Engine 7 to help deal with a $20 million budget shortfall.

Old Louisville resident Fred Nett says other steps should have been taken to save the money.

“These are not executive decisions to be made by politicians unilaterally in isolation without public input or any public discussion and without any input on the part of elected officials,” he says.

If the court decides Engine 7 should remain closed, Nett says the residents will appeal the case and take their concerns to the Kentucky General Assembly and Louisville Metro Council.

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Local News

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Faces Budget Cuts

Like many other institutes of higher education, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is facing budget cuts. The school depends largely on its endowment, which has suffered in the global financial downturn. President Dr. Al Mohler says they’re predicting a $3.2 million budget shortfall, which represents about nine-percent of their budget.

Mohler says the seminary isn’t in dire trouble, but responsible cuts need to be made.

“We are facing this challenge because we have been doing so well,” says Mohler. “We have so many students, a record enrollment and we’ve been doing really well financially, but like everyone else that has a significant endowment in the current investment situation, we’ve got to be really, really careful to be good stewards of those funds.”

Mohler has put travel and hiring freezes in place, and anticipates layoffs in the coming months.

He says one of his top priorities is not raising tuition, as the poor economy is making it even harder for seminarians to afford training.

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Local News

Kentucky Won't Meet Mine Inspection Requirements Under Budget Cuts

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky won’t meet its coal mine inspection mandate under four-percent budget cuts ordered by Governor Steve Beshear. That’s the word from Energy and Environmental Secretary Len Peters, who says Kentucky law requires six inspections per year beginning January 1st, but the state is having a hard time finding new inspectors.

“The anecdotal information that we’re hearing is that they’re very reluctant to come to work for state government, anticipating the possibility of additional cuts or not having the revenue,” says Peters. “Why would I want to come to work and six months later not actually make it through the probationary period.”

Current law requires three inspections per year, and Peters says with current staffing levels that’s likely all the state can handle right now.

He also warns four key staff positions could be lost at the state Public Service Commission, which would limit the commission’s capacity to adequately review utility rate increases, and site new power plants and transmission lines.

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Local News

KSP Limited to Two-Percent Budget Cuts

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is ordering most state agencies to trim spending by four-percent, but he’s limiting Kentucky State Police to two-percent cuts. That’s good news to Justice Secretary Michael Brown, who says KSP’s current force strength is at a 30-year low and demands are growing.

“2010, Kentucky will be hosting the world at the Equestrian Games. That’s Ryder Cup times four,” says Brown. “State Police will be the main contact agency for the security there, working along, of course with Fayette County and the federal agencies.”

Brown says KSP has 56 recruits for a cadet class that begins in January and he won’t let budget cuts jeopardize the class.

KSP’s authorized force strength is 1,070, but Brown says the goal has never been achieved. Current force strength is around 900.

Brown says total cuts to agencies under his direction, including Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections, total almost six-million dollars.

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Local News

Welcome Center Closures Could Be Part of Budget Cuts

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Proposed budget cuts in Kentucky could make it more difficult for travelers and tourists to find their way around the Commonwealth.

Most state agencies will see four-percent cuts under Governor Beshear’s budget-balancing plan, including the Department of Travel. And that could mean the department will have to reduce hours and close all eight welcome centers two days a week, says Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow.

“I think it will have a fairly significant effect, because they’re the frontline,” says Sparrow. “They’re the people who give information on lodging and restaurants and attractions that people may see and in some cases they give our emergency information and help the traveling public.”

The cuts will also impact funding for the arts, staffing at the Kentucky Heritage Council and operating hours at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort.

Secretary Sparrow does not believe the cuts will require closure of any state parks, but says if the situation grows worse, that could change.

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Local News

Governor Beshear Takes Budget Plan on the Road

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is on the road this week, pitching his budget-balancing plan. Fiscal questions are being raised about the governor’s travels.

Tonight, Governor Beshear holds a town hall meeting in Ashland. Wednesday he travels to Hazard and Thursday he’ll be in Dry Ridge. He’s already been to Henderson. He’s taking his pitch for budget cuts and a 70-cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax to the people.

But in tight budget times, wouldn’t videoconferencing be a cheaper way to relay his message?

“There’s a lot of ways I can communicate with folks and I think face-to-face communication is extremely important,” says Beshear. “I want to look them in the eye, tell them where we are, what we’re proposing and what our options are and I want to hear from them.”

The governor says he’s just trying to get the ball rolling in the discussion over fixing the state’s 456-million dollar revenue shortfall. He says time is of the essence and the sooner lawmakers address the deficit, the better.

The next regular legislative session starts January sixth.