Governor Patton’s Remarks
12-12-03

Sitting behind me is the future of Kentucky.

I could not think of a more appropriate spot than sitting in front of Kentucky’s future to share with you the implications of looming budget cuts to education in Kentucky.

When I first took office, my focus was on creating quality jobs that could provide the citizens of this state with the standard of living they deserve… like those before me, I evolved from a jobs governor to an education governor because it became evident very early on, that in order to attract quality jobs, the education of our citizens had to be the main focus.  

We’ve made great strides in education in Kentucky over the past twelve years.

The most important thing we can do for the future of Kentucky is to keep our commitment to education. The future of our nation and our state rests on the intellectual capital of our people. As I’ve said before, education improvement doesn’t have a termination point…it’s an on-going process…a journey, not a destination. That’s what makes the current fiscal crisis in our state so painful.

Our policy-makers must understand the implications of the cuts that will have to be made because of the current fiscal crisis.  Kentucky is not alone as states experience the most severe revenue shortfalls since World War II. 

The fact that some other states are worse off than Kentucky is no source of comfort for me because that fact in no way diminishes the impact of these potential cuts on the future of the children of Kentucky. 

I’m not advocating cuts – I am simply trying to make sure that everyone understands the potential implications if this is the path we have to go down.  In the last biennium state government, through good management, has experienced $872 million in revenue shortfalls. We did this with little effect on the delivery of services to the people of the Commonwealth. We now face additional revenue shortfalls of $144 million for the remainder of this fiscal year and $365 million in FY ’04, about 5.2 percent of budgeted expenditures. 

I don’t know any way to cut state expenses this much without dramatically affecting service delivery.  We have exhausted our ability to manage this shortfall using non-recurring resources such as the Budget Reserve Trust Fund and other dedicated-use funds.

Since it represents 60% of our general fund, education must be considered in any potential budget cut. The magnitude of the budgetary crisis leaves us little choice.  If we exempt education, it will severely compound the problems of other state agencies.

I’ve asked several education leaders to join me today to share with you the dramatic implications that potential budget cuts to education would have in Kentucky communities. First, Commissioner Wilhoit will provide you with a system-wide overview of the impact to K-12 education of a 5.2 percent cut and we’ll hear from superintendents about the local impact. 

Now I’d like to introduce Sue Hodges Moore, the acting president of the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Adult education and literacy is a very important component of life-long learning and critical to the future of the Commonwealth.  Dr. Cheryl King will give you the implications of potential budget cuts on adult ed.

Closing

After what I have heard today I am more convinced than ever that Kentucky cannot afford cuts to education.  The progress that has been made over the past decade must continue. 

If we make these cuts, Kentucky will not be able to meet the needs of it’s people.  We’ve heard the implications.  All of us have to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to suffer the consequences? 

An awfully lot of people - teachers, parents, business and community leaders, our legislature – have invested their time and energy to ensure that all of our children have the best opportunity available anywhere to succeed.  These efforts are threatened by the state’s current fiscal crisis.

We cannot afford to let the future of Kentucky down.