Kentucky Senate Balks At New Park Spending (3/6/2019)

Story by Woodall's Campground Management

Kentucky's GOP-dominated Senate is balking at a request from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's administration to borrow $50 million in an election year to fix up the state's park system, according to the Courier Journal. 

House Bill 268, which cleared the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 93-6, would authorize the Cabinet for Tourism, Arts and Heritage to borrow $50 million in the budget year that begins July 1 to pay for such items as new roofs and expanded campgrounds. The bill also pledges to borrow an extra $100 million over the next three years for the same purpose.

But Tuesday (March 5), the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee amended the bill to remove all the parks money by a unanimous, bipartisan vote — setting up a potential spending fight with the House of Representatives.

The Kentucky legislature passes a two-year spending plan in even-numbered years. They aren't supposed to authorize new spending in odd-numbered years, except if it is an emergency. That's why any new spending in an odd-numbered year requires a three-fifths majority vote.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel, who leads the committee, said he does not see the parks system maintenance problems as "genuine emergencies." He noted lawmakers have been aware of the problems, which is why last year they authorized the Cabinet to borrow up to $20 million to make improvements.

Kentucky's parks department operates 17 resort parks, 22 recreational parks and 10 historic sites. Resort parks include hotels, restaurants and recreation such as golf courses and boating.

State budget writers neglected the park system in the tight budget years after the Great Recession, which began around 2008. But state officials have been trying to make repairs ahead of the park system's 100th anniversary in 2024. Since 2016, the state legislature has authorized $38 million in spending — mostly through loans — to make repairs. But state officials say more is needed.

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