By Adam Beam, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Democratic majority in Kentucky’s House of Representatives wants to offer free community college tuition to all of the state’s high school graduates, signaling a likely confrontation with new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin over state spending.
Bevin, who took office in December, has proposed slashing $650 million in state spending over the next two years, including cuts of 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent in each of the next two years for the state’s colleges and universities. Bevin wants to use the money to begin paying down the state’s $36 billion public pension debt, which he and other Republican leaders say could bankrupt the state if left unchecked.
College presidents have pushed back, promising tuition increases and academic program cuts if the reductions stay in place. On Wednesday, House Democrats said their budget proposal will take as much as $33 million from Bevin’s pension plan over the next two years and use it to pay the tuition for all Kentucky high school graduates who can meet certain standards. It is modeled after a similar program in Tennessee that was enacted by a Republican governor and state legislature.