On Tuesday, Governor Bevin delivered his first State of the Commonwealth Budget Address to a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate. Governor Bevin focused his remarks on themes such as making Kentucky the best version of itself, the need to deal with debt facing our state, and taking care of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens.
While any assessment of Governor Bevin’s budget proposal Tuesday evening will require more time to ensure accuracy and understanding, there are a remarkable number of “bright spots” for Kentucky’s kids and families.
As an example, a specific “bright spot” is around the First Lady’s initiative around child advocacy centers. What more vulnerable citizen can there be than an abused child? Additionally, the increase in the numbers of social workers, the emphasis on reduced case loads, and the improved level of support for frontline workers will make a significant and positive impact on families in crisis. Both of these commitments remind us that even in tough times, Kentucky’s budget can have a heart.
Another example of a “bright spot” is around a broader management theme – and that is giving Cabinet Secretaries more “elbow room” to shape their entity’s direction. That proposition can make a real difference in times of fiscal constraints. As an example, we know that when it comes to child welfare, Kentucky has been implementing some of the least effective and most expensive strategies. This kind of elbow room means that the Cabinet can flip the switch and begin to emphasize better practices for kids – like family preservation and kinship care – and stretch the precious few dollars we have. Additionally, the increase in the number of social workers and the improved level of support for frontline workers will make a significant and positive impact on families in crisis.
Finally, a “bright spot” is around incubating smart management practices such as the concept of performance funding for universities. That is exactly the kind of quality process that should be applied to any number of sectors be that early childhood, K-12 education, or child welfare agencies. Those kinds of practices can result in positive outcomes for Kentuckians and also in the Commonwealth’s bottom line.
It would be easy to underreact or overreact to the Governor’s address. And while again, more time is needed for a reasonable analysis, a first glance assessment offers rays of hope.
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