HB 111 and HB 177 will provide institutions of higher education flexibility to finance projects that will not require tax payer funds, but still maintain the necessary oversight by the General Assembly. The legislation includes provisions to insure that the projects are needed and to safeguard that the annual operating cost of the new buildings or equipment will be covered by the institutions' cash flows on an ongoing basis. Providing this flexibility, especially during this time of budget constraints, is crucial to the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville continuing on their path to achieving top 20 status in the country. Forty three other states provide at least this much flexibility and Gov. Steve Beshear has endorsed both proposals.
One bill I filed for consideration last week (HB 304) is an initiative to address the growing problems of illegal immigrants in Kentucky. The proposal would designate the Office of Homeland Security as the agency responsible for assisting local governments in participating in the Federal training program (287g) that evaluates the immigration status of all individuals who enter our criminal justice system. It also would require any employer who contracts with any unit of government to certify that they do not knowingly hire illegal immigrants, with strong penalties for those who do, and strong penalties for anyone who commits the crime of human trafficking by recruiting illegal immigrants to enter our country and in effect enslave them to provide cheap labor.
A clearer understanding of our budget situation will emerge later this month, when Gov.Beshear delivers his budget address on Jan. 29. Work on the budget, which must originate in the House, will begin immediately after we receive the Governor's proposal.
I remain hopeful that we can craft a budget that protects funding for our school districts and our universities. We have made great progress over the past 15 years of my legislative service in Education. I truly believe that the economic vitality of our state is dependent on maintain a strong public education system. The challenge will be great given the national recession we are facing, but the General Assembly must rise above political partisanship and show the leadership necessary to develop a budget that meets the needs of our citizens.
The budget must also address the unfunded liability in our state and county pension plans. Gov. Beshear has indicated that he will propose legislation that will address the unfunded liability in the coming weeks. While the pension payments to our retirees are guaranteed by the state of Kentucky, we must address the unfunded liability to insure that future budgets are not constrained by meeting the annual obligations of the pension payments.
You can stay informed of legislative action on any bill of interest by using the legislature's Web site at www.lrc.ky.gov. You may also leave a message for any legislator at 1-800-372-7181. You may also reach me through my web site www.bobdamron.com.
It is an honor to serve you as your voice in the Kentucky House of Representatives.