FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Governor’s budget director wants cabinet director, agency heads and statewide officeholders to prepare for immediate budget cuts due to revenue losses associated with the coronavirus.
Budget director John Hicks sent two letters in late April, telling the offices to freeze any hiring and discretionary spending not related to the pandemic, and develop plans to refrain from spending at least one percent of their general fund budget for the remaining fiscal year. The letters say that’s equal to about a 12.5 percent annual cut.
The plans won’t be finalized until after the Consensus Forecasting Group offers a revised revenue estimate later this month.
"We can’t have any final plans of any cabinet when we don’t even know what the number is," Gov. Andy Beshear said.
The Consensus Forecasting Group provides the official revenue estimate lawmakers work off of to craft the state budget. It meets again May 22.
That group isn’t the only variable, though. Beshear said the next coronavirus relief package from Congress will also weigh into what the state does.
"The next thing we don’t know is is congress going to provide assistance or are they going to free up the dollars we’ve been sent for other uses? All of those questions will dramatically change what those plans include," Beshear said.
Because of the coronavirus and it’s impact on the economy, Beshear said he wants everyone to figure out how they can operate in a worst-case scenario.
"So what you do in these situations is you ask organizations to make multiple plans, including what is the absolute worst, and they can then work back from there," Beshear said. "So what they’re preparing right now is going to be, i think, very different from the final that we see."
Kentucky Republican Party spokesman Michael Lonergan criticized the Governor for not being transparent enough with the plans.
"When running for Governor, Beshear promised to make transparency a priority – yet the only thing transparent about his administration is this latest attempt to go back on his word," Lonergan said.
Secretary of State Michael Adams wrote on twitter that despite his office’s role expanding due to the coronavirus, he plans on being a team player to help the overall budget.