Last week the governor announced mid-year budget cuts for fiscal year 2018 that represent an overall cut of 1.3 percent to all 3 branches of state government. However, it is important to note that the cuts made in the executive branch are not distributed equally across departments and agencies, and some will suffer very large reductions as shown in the table below.
For those areas that were cut (and some areas were not) the cuts range from 0.2 percent (for the Department of Aging and Independent Living) to 20 percent for Libraries and Archives (General Operations), and these cuts come on top of round after round of budget cuts sustained by many of these same agencies since 2008. Because these cuts come six months into the fiscal year, it will be very difficult for many of the agencies to absorb them without impacting services. Several budget areas will sustain cuts in excess of 10 percent, and the budget for the Department of Public Health is cut 5.8 percent, which is alarming given the severity of the opioid epidemic in Kentucky.
Dozens of other agencies that provide critical services across the state were cut an additional 5 percent, including the Commission on Human Rights, Kentucky Educational Television, the Commission on Women, the Department of Juvenile Justice and Environmental Protection. The Department of Revenue and the Property Valuation Administrators — the already underfunded agencies responsible for assessing property and collecting state funds, were also cut by 5 percent.
Although some agencies received smaller cuts, these cuts are equally concerning. The current level of services provided by many of the agencies receiving smaller cuts are already not meeting needs: Learning and Results Services in the Department of Education — which provides grants for local school districts for Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs), textbooks and professional development — was already severely underfunded prior to this last round of cuts and FRYSCs are overwhelmed. There are long waiting lists for Department of Aging and Independent Living services such as “meals on wheels.” And it is also significant that Kentucky’s constitutional offices — including the Attorney General, Auditor of Public Accounts and Secretary of State — received another round of cuts in 2018.
This last round of cuts will make it much more difficult for the departments and agencies that must absorb them to effectively deliver the services and perform the duties they are statutorily — and in some cases constitutionally — mandated to provide.