FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state likely will need a special legislative session to make adjustments to the transportation budget and cuts are coming to the state’s general fund without an infusion of federal funding, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday.
A revenue forecasting group says Kentucky’s governor will need to cut $457 million from the state’s General Fund to offset plunging tax receipts caused by the coronavirus.
The Consensus Forecasting Group met Friday. It offered a pessimistic outlook for the state’s short-term revenue collections as the battered economy tries to bounce back from the global pandemic.
Its revised forecasts Friday were limited to the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Gov. Andy Beshear will take the scaled-back projections as a guide in determining the extent of cuts to the state’s General Fund.
In addition, changes are coming to unemployment payments, changes to the state’s voting process which is under way for the June 23 primary, and dates have been set for opening bowling alleys, fitness centers, auto racing and youth sports.
As previously announced, fitness centers, bowling alleys, and auto racing can start June 1 and those guidelines are posted on the state’s web site. Guidelines for youth sports to begin June 15 also are posted.
The state Capitol also will open starting Wednesday but only for groups of 10 or less and tours must be reserved.
On budget cuts, the state has a process for general fund cuts and transportation changes require a different action, including the Legislature. Beshear said he is having discussions with legislative leaders about a “short, targeted session to adjust the numbers.”
The governor said he still hopes Congress will approve another round of relief providing funding for state and local, governments covering revenue and budget shortfalls, much like Congress did more than a decade ago during the Great Recession.
“We’ve seen a little movement in that direction,” Beshear said of discussions between governors and leaders in Congress.
“I would hope we would do an infrastructure program,” Beshear said, noting the need to “repair our roads and bridges” and “put people to work.”
Changes also are coming to unemployment benefits, including on the state’s web site.
But the biggest changes mean the end to automatic payments and unemployed workers will have to start requesting benefits every two weeks..
“As of Sunday, there will be no more automatic payments,” Unemployment Benefits Coordinator Josh Benton said. “They will have to be requested every two weeks.’
Changes to the Web site include allowing employers to report workers who have returned to work to reduce double dipping.
Workers who have returned to work but have reduced workers can put in those numbers and likely still be eligible for benefits, even if they are reduced, Benton said.
Benton said the state still has 14,000 cases from March and 38,000 from April and that it has assigned its most experienced adjudicators to reviewing and addressing those cases.
Anyone with questions or seeking to make a claim should visit kcc.ky.gov. To ask a question once there, click on the “Contact Us” button.
Employers wishing to notify about employees returning to work should go to the site and select the “Employer Return to Work” button. The state has processed 763,287 claims, paying out more than $1.76 billion.
And Secretary of State Michael Adams updated Kentuckians on the new voting procedures for mail-in and absentee ballots. The deadline for voter registration is May 26.
Perhaps the most important deadline for voters is June 15, which is the deadline to request mail-in ballots for the June 23 primary. The date gives state and local election officials time to make sure ballots get to voters.
And procedures are in place to safeguard against the rare chance of fraud. For instance, election officials monitor requests for ballots and red flag addresses getting what appears to be large numbers of ballots.
A recent check on one such case found the ballots were going to a nursing home.
The new Absentee Ballot Application Portal is now online. A link to the State Board of Elections’ portal can be found at govoteky.com. He urged everyone who plans to vote in next month’s primary elections to go to the portal and request an absentee mail-in ballot.
“I want to thank our Secretary of State and Jared,” said the governor. “I would love to see us have a better primary response than we would have seen – so go online and request your ballot. We can do this. Thank you to everyone who has been involved.”
“I am very proud to announce this new online portal,” said Secretary of State Michael Adams. “As I have said before, I promised to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and this system does that. The best thing you can do is go online at govoteky.com and apply for your ballot.”
Jared Dearing, executive director of the State Board of Elections said, “I would like to thank the Governor, Secretary of State, my staff and the county clerks for all the work they have put in to make this possible. Over the coming weeks, it is important that everyone has time to make a plan to vote. I encourage you to visit govoteky.com to make a plan to vote safe from home.”
Dearing noted that some, limited in-person voting will be allowed to ensure everyone has the right to vote.
The deadline to register to vote is May 26. You can register to vote at elect.ky.gov.
Voters in every county of the commonwealth can request a mail-in ballot for the June primary elections.