New Senate Education Chair Max Wise says education funding will be priority in 2018 as state continues to struggle with pension crisis

As the end of 2017 quickly approaches, state Sen. Max Wise said pension reforms should likely wait until the 2018 regular session and added funding must be found for education as legislators work to craft a new two-year budget among budgetary issues. Wise also stated that while comprehensive tax reform is key to making Kentucky more competitive, he feels it needs more study before the system is overhauled this year.

Wise said he would prefer to see the legislature wait until the regular session of the General Assembly starting January 2 to tackle pension reforms, noting the letter sent to Gov. Matt Bevin by members of the House asking to wait and the concerns expressed by many of his constituents.

Wise discussed chatter of a “watered down” version of the original pension proposal possibly coming before the legislature that would not include 3% employee salary contribution going to the retiree health insurance fund, some changes to how cost of living adjustments are handled, and other tweaks.

Listen to Sen. Wise discuss the pension issue here (article continues after video):

Heading into the 2018 session, Sen. Wise has been tapped as the new Senate Education Committee chair. As an educator at the graduate and undergraduate levels and a father of four children currently in Kentucky schools, Wise said he looks forward to bringing his experience to the new role. Wise also said he expects to work closely with House Education Committee Chair Bam Carney and lean on his expertise as they seek to move important education issues forward.

The main focus of education discussions in 2018 will revolve around funding as legislators craft the next two-year state budget with limited resources. In the most recent budget, cuts were seen in almost every area of state government except for K-12 education. Wise said he expects the legislature to again try to hold education harmless in any budget cuts (discussion starting at 3:00 in the video segment below).

As for higher education funding and the cuts seen by the state’s colleges and universities in recent years, Wise said he expects the performance-based funding model passed by the General Assembly in 2016 to help improve the use of those funding sources but added that many of the higher education institutions will have to “tighten the belt” as funding continues to be an issue.

An education issue outside of the budget expected to see movement in 2018 is essential skills legislation dealing with ensuring Kentucky students have the skills they need to enter the workforce. This comes as many businesses across the state struggle to find applicants able to show up to work on time, work on a team, dress properly for the job, and other critical skills required to fill the positions they have available.

Wise noted the Senate and House have worked over the interim to study the issue further and said he expects to see some movement on that issue this year, stating he feels it is something the state must address moving forward.

Hear more from Wise on education issues and budgetary needs in 2018 here:

With all of the funding issues facing the legislature in 2018, tax reform continues to be a key area of discussion in Frankfort. In an exclusive interview with The Bottom Line, Gov. Bevin said he could potentially introduce two separate budget proposals in 2018, one with tax reform and one without.

Wise said he feels comprehensive tax reform is necessary for the state, but added that it is unlikely the legislature will be able to tackle that issue along with the budget and pension reforms in 2018.

“I think Kentuckians know that tax reform is going to happen. But I think also at the same time when they hear tax, they are automatically saying ‘woah, hit the brakes.’ But I think tax reform can be looked at in a way that says we aren’t raising property taxes, we aren’t doing all these things that sometimes make people fearful when they hear that three letter word,” Wise said.

Watch the segment on tax reform in the video below:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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