Governor Bevin vetoed $40.3 million in funding for need-based college scholarships contained in House Bill 10, meaning denied aid for nearly 22,000 low-income students that had been awarded by the General Assembly. This is at the same time the budget cuts funding for higher education by 4.5 percent, leading to tuition hikes at the public universities and community colleges.
The governor’s vetoes also delay the start of the Work Ready Scholarship, a program designed to help some traditional-age students pursue associate’s degrees, by one year from 2017 to 2018. That amounts to a cut of $9.4 million. Some or all of that $9.4 million may end up going to the need-based college aid programs — known as the College Access Program (CAP) and the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG) programs — but the amount is unclear. The budget does increase funding for CAP and KTG compared to the previous biennium of at least $14.7 million, or nearly 8,000 more scholarships. However, with the vetoes the budget does not meet the statutory promise that 55 percent of lottery dollars will go to need-based aid, as the General Assembly’s budget nearly achieved.
Separately, the governor vetoed House Bill 626 which sets up the statutory framework for the Work Ready Scholarship as well as for a performance-based higher education funding system, a dual credit program and a board to oversee the $100 million workforce development bond included in the budget. This veto does not affect the funding for those programs in this budget.
The governor vetoed an expansion of eligibility for preschool from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. This veto does not reduce the amount of funding that goes into preschool, but may limit schools’ ability to fully utilize preschool funds. Earmarks were also eliminated for the ACT and WorkKeys testing program and the Every1 Reads program.
The governor’s vetoes delete up to $7.5 million over the biennium for the Quality and Charity Care Trust Fund at the University of Louisville Hospital, which helps cover health care costs for the uninsured. While spending on this program has declined dramatically in recent years thanks to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, some monies are still needed and Kentucky’s uninsured rate is at risk of going up because of the governor’s plans to shut down Kynect and make changes to Medicaid. Similarly, language is deleted that earmarks $1.5 million for breast, cervical and colon cancer screening.
The governor’s vetoes also include eliminating language outlining how the governor will deal with allotments and budget reductions if there is a shortfall, issues that the governor is now in litigation with the Attorney General over for the 2016 fiscal year. In addition, language changes were made that give the executive branch more flexibility in how certain monies are spent.