News From Frankfort: Pay Raises for State Employees

Published 10:41 am Sunday, March 13, 2022

The state Senate officially made changes onto the most significant budget related bill, the executive branch’s two year budget, which is House Bill 1. HB 1 alone spends $26.3 billion of your hard earned taxpayer dollars. The Senate’s priorities are in the Senate Committee Substitute drafted by the Senators.

The House and Senate will enter into budget negotiations in a conference committee, likely to take place next week. Both chambers select members to begin budget negotiations on their differences so the final product can be agreed upon.

Senate Substitute 1 to HB 1 reflects the Senate Majority’s firm understanding that each penny given to Frankfort was from an investment of time and energy of every single Kentucky taxpayer.

High points of the Senate budget include:
Pay increases for state employees
• A $4,500 raise in the budget’s first year for state employees, which is the equivalent of a 10 percent raise for employees in positions making $45,000. The state is finding many positions harder to fill and retain with no cost of living increases over the many years. The second year will also include a similar raise amount, but will be contingent on a Personnel Cabinet study that emphasizes employment environment, merit, locality and positional impacts.

• Those considerations will also be applied in raises for Kentucky State Police. Each trooper will receive a minimum $15,000 pay increase.

• Social workers will receive a $4,800 increase in the first year and then a 10 percent increase in the second year. These raises are on top of the 10 percent raise they received effective December 16, 2021 by the governor’s executive order.

An important component of this Senate budget, and a reflection of the workload social workers carry, is to provide an alternate work program for those who have worked at least four years with the state. This will provide an alternate work opportunity that will help address employee burnout, heavy caseload and the emotional drain on the profession.

• Bolsters the state’s rainy day fund, also known as the Budget Reserve Trust Fund to $1.756 billion.

• Leaves a conservative $1.3 billion remaining after the biennium, providing the state fiscal flexibility

• The Senate budget accomplishes all this while including the chamber’s tax refund plan for working Kentuckians, $500 for single filers and $1,000 for households
Education investments

• Increases per pupil seek funding to $4,100 in Year one (up from $4,000) and up to $4,200 in Year two and provides funding for school construction and maintenance. Previously allocated federal dollars became ineligible for school infrastructure funding following Biden administration policy change after Kentucky had already allocated those funds last year.

• Increases inmate per diem state reimbursement to county jails by $4, lowering the burden on local jails that are housing state inmates.

I will keep you updated as budget negotiations yield something more concrete. Please know Senate District 29 remains my priority as we work to use wisely the tax dollars you have entrusted to your Senators.

Aside from these important budget efforts, I would like to highlight a number of other important bills.

Senate Bill 216 builds on election integrity for clean elections. SB 216 expands the Attorney General office’s independent inquiry of potential election irregularities to include no fewer than 12 Kentucky counties. It implements measures to prevent voter fraud by removing credit or debit cards as a viable form of voter identification and prohibits a voting system from being connected to any network, including the internet, or with any external device.

Additionally, it requires all voting machines to use paper ballots by January 1, 2024, and returns the Kentucky Secretary of State as chair of the State Board of Elections. After trust was breached, the previous Secretary of State was rightly removed as chair of the board.

Senate Bill 205 is Kentucky’s response to major banks and investment firms that are denying lending to and investments in fossil fuel companies. They promote “green” investments and political agendas. The coal industry has been a vital part of Kentucky’s economy for over 100 years and has provided affordable energy and good jobs for countless citizens of our Commonwealth.

This concerted effort to financially starve out the fossil fuel industry is contributing significantly to high fuel and energy costs, resulting in extreme financial hardship on hard-working Kentuckians.

SB 205 makes it clear that Kentucky stands with our fossil fuel companies and the Kentuckians who work every day to produce the resources that power our nation.

The bill requires the Kentucky State Treasurer to maintain a list of financial companies and banks that are boycotting the fossil fuel industry and share that list with government agencies in Kentucky that make substantial financial investments, such as state pension funds.

These governmental agencies are required to remove investments in financial companies that refuse to stop boycotting. Kentucky will not invest state funds in financial companies that have declared lend to the coal industry.

Kentucky will not invest in financial companies that have declared war on our coal and fossil industry by adopting a political philosophy that will continue to increase fuel and energy costs and put our reliable power grid at risk.You should check and see if your local bank is on that list.

We have two more weeks of session, and I will continue to work to get funds in our counties, as many roads worked on as possible.
As always, it’s an honor to represent you in Frankfort. If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Johnnie.Turner@lrc.ky.gov.

Senator Johnnie Turner (R-Harlan) represents the 29th District, which includes Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher counties. Sen. Turner is vice-chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. He also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Transportation and Judiciary.