Gov. Beshear’s Forward, Together Budget Provides Largest Pay Increase for Teachers in 40 Years, Fully Funds Pre-K, Supports Child Care

Plan aims to address the concerns Kentucky families worry most about

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2023) – Tonight, less than one week after being sworn in for his second term, Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled his Forward, Together budget proposal, which prioritizes public education and families by funding the largest single pay raise for public school educators and staff in 40 years, fully funding universal pre-K and providing support for child care providers.

The Governor’s $136.6 billion two-year budget aims to address the concerns that families worry most about by helping the state build a world-class education system; move major infrastructure projects forward; grow jobs; boost public safety; expand health care and support local and state employees who are working to build a better Kentucky. The investments that are needed to move the commonwealth forward are being proposed without spending any of the state’s record-largest Rainy Day fund or General Fund surplus.

“Kentuckians don’t wake up every morning thinking about Democrat or Republican – and neither does this budget,” Gov. Beshear said. “We are working to address the things that actually matter to our people … that are important to everyone. This budget reflects our shared Kentucky values of family, faith and community.”

The Governor added, “I know we can work together to make these investments and continue building that better Kentucky we all want – one where my children and yours can stay right here at home and chase their dreams.”

To read the Governor’s Budget Address remarks, click here. To read the 2024-2026 executive budget summary and draft budget bills visit the Office of the State Budget Director website. The bills will be filed and considered by lawmakers when the General Assembly convenes for the 2024 Regular Session, which begins Jan. 2, 2024. Gov. Beshear’s Forward, Together plan details include:

Building a World-Class Education System
The Governor’s plan provides $1.1 billion over two years to fund an 11% raise to all public school employees – including teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and janitors. This increase would bring Kentucky’s average teacher starting pay to $42,191, which would bring Kentucky up to 24th in the country for teacher starting salary in National Education Association (NEA) rankings. The pay raise also would bring Kentucky up to 25th in average teacher salary from its current ranking of 40th in the NEA’s rankings.

“Just imagine the local economic impact of an 11% raise to every employee of the county’s largest employer. And we have the funding to do it,” Gov. Beshear said. “These raises will not only help us recruit but will have a major impact on our local communities.”

Eden Gabbard, a special education teacher at Bullitt Central High School, said, “We are at a crossroads in the world of education. We have teaching assistants, paraprofessionals and teachers not making a living wage in some parts of the state. We have to step up to say that the future of Kentucky’s education is important enough to invest in now.”

The plan also provides $172 million each year to fund universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds so that every child is kindergarten-ready and to help stop learning loss where it starts. The Department of Education estimates that under this plan, about 34,000 additional Kentucky 4-year-olds would be provided preschool education.

The Governor’s plan fully funds teacher pensions and student transportation; ensures no health insurance premium increase for educators; provides teachers student loan forgiveness; supports professional development; funds textbooks; boosts mental health services; and will help build new career and technical education centers.

Moving Forward Critical Infrastructure Projects
Gov. Beshear said we are building a true legacy of infrastructure in the commonwealth and that it is time to follow through on projects that help our families and communities.

This budget plan includes another $500 million in grants to county and local governments to provide unserved families access to cleaner water and wastewater systems. If passed, it would build upon the $500 million already allocated in federal dollars since 2021 through a bipartisan agreement with the General Assembly.

The Governor is also making a final push to expand high-speed internet into every home and business by asking the General Assembly to approve federal grant funds for distribution. The Governor’s plan also provides $10 million over the next two years to provide more Kentuckians in need with affordable housing. He is seeking $300 million over two years to continue and speed up the work already started on the construction of the Mountain Parkway in the East and the I-69 River Crossing in our western region. His plan also creates a $50 million grant fund for repairing more city and county bridges across the state. One-time funds are being proposed to underwrite a one-year tax credit for Kentuckians for tolls they pay driving over the Louisville/Jefferson County bridges during the calendar year 2024. To make sure communities have an open door to the world, the Governor proposed investing $50 million to support the state’s 58 general aviation airports for development, rehabilitation and maintenance.

Supporting Job Growth
To keep the state’s red-hot economy booming and to make sure every community has an opportunity to land a major new employer, the Governor is proposing another $200 million over the next two years: $100 million to prepare mega-development projects and another $100 million for county and regional site development.

“We know this works. Working with lawmakers, we’ve already dedicated $100 million to this kind of site development through our successful Kentucky Product Development Initiative,” Gov. Beshear said. “To date, more than 47 counties have received funding to develop more build-ready sites, and a second round of funding is on its way.”

To help continue tourism sector growth, which had its best year on record in 2022 with $12.9 billion in economic impact and sustaining more than 91,600 jobs, the Governor is proposing to use the $71 million set aside in a previous session to improve state parks. His plan includes $184 million for projects ranging from the reconstruction of marinas and new conference centers to updating critical electrical and water systems throughout the state park system.

Boosting Public Safety
As Governor and as a dad, Gov. Beshear believes every single Kentuckian has the right to feel safe in their community, workplace and school. To achieve that, his budget proposal includes an additional $2,500 raise for all KSP troopers and officers and enough funding to add 150 more troopers over the next two years. The Governor previously worked with lawmakers to increase KSP troopers and officers’ pay by $18,800. Thanks to those increases and the tireless efforts from the KSP recruitment branch, more than 1,000 troopers are now keeping us safe – the highest number since 2017.

His budget plan once again raises the training stipend that the state pays local and state law enforcement officers and local firefighters, and for the first time adds certified, part-time local law enforcement officers. The Governor’s plan also includes $35 million to fund grants for body armor to protect our law enforcement officers and first responders and adds $146.1 million to construct a Western Kentucky Regional Training Center to expand law enforcement training.

When it comes to justice-involved youth, the Governor’s budget provides funding for two new female-only juvenile detention centers, the renovation of the Jefferson County Youth Detention Center and retrofits to four other detention centers. The Governor said these safety projects are necessary to make sure there are no low-level male offenders in the same areas as more violent offenders, and so males and females are separated.

The Governor’s budget expands support for adult inmates as they reenter society by adding $10.5 million over two years to increase reentry services in jails and in the entire adult correctional institution inmate population. The plan also calls for building a reentry skills training facility on the grounds of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex that will help provide job-skills training.

“We currently have the lowest recidivism rate in history. That makes us safer, and we want to keep it going,” Gov. Beshear said.

Expanding Health Care
The Governor believes that health care is a basic human right, and he has worked to expand access to quality care in every corner of the commonwealth – his latest budget continues this priority. The Forward, Together plan fully funds Medicaid, including Medicaid expansion, and ensures that the health care provided for over 1.5 million Kentuckians continues.

To boost mental health services, the Governor is adding funding to support mobile crisis intervention services. These community-based programs will provide trained health professionals to respond to Kentuckians battling addiction or a behavioral health crisis.

“Sending those facing a mental health crisis to the emergency room or jail is not always the answer, and this program provides people with the targeted help they need and deserve,” Gov. Beshear said.

To help the most vulnerable children, the Governor is supporting the Kentucky Pediatric Research Trust Fund by adding $5 million in each fiscal year. He is also providing $10 million each year to increase rates for relative caregivers who agree to take a child that is already in the state’s custody and is increasing foster care rates by 12% or $9.8 million each year.

Investing in Local and State Government
Gov. Beshear praised local leaders for their collaboration on programs that provide water and sewer, site development and infrastructure funds to local communities. When it comes to supporting coal communities, the Governor’s plan returns 100% of state coal severance tax revenues back to coal-producing counties. He is also providing more than $75 million to the Eastern Kentucky SAFE Fund in the current fiscal year to shore up the fund and provide more resources for our Eastern Kentucky communities. This funding builds off the bipartisan work by lawmakers and the administration to create funds for both the East following the devastating flooding and the West following the tornadoes.

When it comes to the state workforce, the Governor is proposing a 6% across-the-board raise effective July 1, 2024, and another 4% increase effective July 1, 2025. Combined, this would be the largest four-year increase that the administration is aware of – but the Governor said this is an effort to catch up after workers saw no pay increases for 10 of the past 12 years.

The Governor’s plan once again fully funds state employees’ pensions and includes $209 million over the biennium to continue to pay down the pension liability.

At the conclusion of his budget address, the Governor said his priority is to work with lawmakers to pass this plan because these investments can help so many Kentuckians and communities.