Last fall, there was much concern as to what the 2018 legislative session and biennial budget would bring because of uncertainties around pension reform and expected revenue shortfalls. However, as we review the proposed budget, we are reassured by our state leaders’ commitment to Kentucky kids. The House version of the proposed executive branch budget embraces a myriad of opportunities to improve the lives and futures of Kentucky kids and families and for that we applaud House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Steven Rudy and all members of the committee and subcommittees for their thoughtful and thorough approach to the budget.

The greatest potential in this biennial budget proposal is reflected in the commitment to strengthening the child welfare system. The proposed House budget supports the reforms laid out in House Bill 1, which set forth a comprehensive plan for strengthening how Kentucky supports children impacted by abuse and neglect. We applaud the Kentucky House for retaining Governor Bevin’s $5.1 million allocation towards restoring the Kinship Care Program, $12.5 million to recruit additional social workers and reduce social worker caseloads, and $22.9 million for the relative foster care payments to fulfill the decision by the Sixth Circuit Court.

We appreciate the restored funding for Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs) in schools, which reflects the House’s commitment to some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable kids. Additionally, by shoring up funding for education, the Kentucky House took additional strides towards building a strong future for kids.

As the Kentucky Senate discusses the proposed budget, we encourage the Senate to continue to build on their strong track record of support for Kentucky kids. We ask leaders to keep investments in child protection and education, while considering two measures to support families. First, to strengthen support for working parents and for relatives who step up to care for kids, increase the funding for the Child Care Assistance Program and for kinship caregivers. And second, support a tobacco tax of at least $1 increase to reduce smoking among teens and pregnant women and to promote a healthier Kentucky future.

The proposed budget takes advantage of pragmatic and critical opportunities for kids. Just as importantly, the budget maintains a vision for future investments and revenue streams that will continue to be real difference-makers for Kentucky kids and families.

Track the executive branch budget proposal as it moves through the Kentucky legislature on our bill tracker.