Gov. Matt Bevin is asking state workers what matters to them in anticipation of his state budget address next week.
Bevin’s office sent emails late Tuesday afternoon to about 39,000 state workers, asking them to share with him how to improve state services and be better stewards of public resources.
More than 1,000 people had responded by early afternoon Wednesday, said Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto. She said several of them indicated that they could not recall any other governor making such a request of state workers.
“The response has been great — very constructive, insightful and appreciative,” she said.
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Ditto said a similar question was asked on Facebook.
“As a public servant, you are on the front line of some of the most pressing challenges facing our commonwealth,” Bevin wrote in his email to state workers. “I need your perspective as we work to implement solutions that will benefit all Kentuckians.”
The Republican governor, who took office last Dec. 8, asked for replies by close of business Wednesday.
Bevin will present his budget plan Tuesday night at a joint session of Kentucky’s General Assembly. It will be a road map for state revenue for the next two years.
Lawmakers will consider Bevin’s plan and try to agree on a final budget bill before this year’s legislative session ends in April.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in a floor speech Wednesday that he thinks the budget “will be one of the most austere” in his 20 years in the legislature.
Even with an additional $900 million expected from growth in revenue over the next two years, Stivers said, the state faces a half-billion-dollar hole created by increased expenses for retirement and health care programs, among other things.
He later told reporters that he thinks austere means no pay raises or new building projects and could mean reduction in state programs and personnel.
Asked if he thinks Bevin’s campaign platform of eliminating inheritance and inventory taxes would be wise at this time, Stivers said the projected budget figures might impede those goals. He added that cutting taxes probably would be “a hard sell” in the Senate.
David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said Wednesday that state workers are concerned about “the underfunding of state retirement benefits,” the increased cost of health care and declining staffing levels.
“The governor has said he wants to minimize state government,” Smith said. “If you do that, can you make sure enough workers remain to provide public services.”
Still, Smith said he thinks “it’s wonderful that Gov. Bevin is opening up to state workers and asking what’s on their minds.”
“The real test,” Smith said, “is whether the governor listens to them and tries to act on what they have to say.”
Smith, who works for the state Transportation Cabinet, said he would reply to Bevin’s request.
“I hope many do,” he said, noting that his group represents about 10,000 state workers.