Jessie Whitish

Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates

We are encouraged by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee’s proposed Kentucky subcommittee budgets as they embrace a myriad of opportunities to improve the lives and futures of Kentucky kids and families. From revenue to expenditures, the overall proposals represent a courageous commitment to Kentucky kids. We applaud Chairman Rudy and all members of the committee and subcommittees for their thoughtful and thorough approach to these budgets.

As with Governor Bevin’s proposed budget, the greatest potential we heard today lies within child welfare funding. The proposed House budgets support the reforms laid out in HB 1, which set forth a comprehensive plan for strengthening how Kentucky supports children impacted by abuse and neglect. We applaud the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee for retaining Governor Bevin’s $5.1 million allocation to restore 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 understand that cuts will be restored to Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs) in schools, which will continue the House’s commitment to some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable kids. By addressing these and other cuts across education, the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee took additional strides towards building a strong future for kids.

We appreciate that the House is considering an increase in Kentucky’s cigarette tax as part of their overall budget proposal, however, we urge the legislature to increase the tobacco tax by at least $1 to be able to achieve the health goals of reducing smoking rates among youth and pregnant women.

The proposed budgets build upon Governor Bevin’s budget to take advantage of pragmatic and critical opportunities for kids. Just as importantly, they maintain a vision for future investments and revenue streams that will continue to be real difference-makers for Kentucky kids and families.