Safe milk, clean coal, avian flu. UK warns of wide impact from Bevin budget cuts.

UK president says Bevin's proposed budget cuts touch nearly everybody at UK

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed cuts to higher education would hurt all sectors of Kentucky.
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University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed cuts to higher education would hurt all sectors of Kentucky.

Last year, the University of Kentucky’s Division of Regulatory Services analyzed 47,000 soil samples sent in by farmers and homeowners, stopped sales on 206 fertilizer samples because they were harmful to gardens and pets, and monitored the state’s milk and cream-handling system.

The UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory tests for mad cow disease, avian flu and hundreds of other diseases that might affect the state’s $45 billion agricultural industry.

Under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget, those programs would see cuts of $1.8 million and $2 million, respectively, hobbling their abilities to perform all those services.

“I think we do our citizens a disservice if we don’t go through these exercises to take a close look at the programs we support and assess what should be our priorities year to year,” UK President Eli Capilouto told lawmakers Thursday at a budget review committee meeting. “Support for agencies like this are vitally important.”

UK officials said Bevin’s proposed cuts would slice state funding at Kentucky’s flagship university by $26 million, or nearly 10 percent. The governor’s proposed across-the-board cut of 6.25 percent would cost UK about $16 million. In addition, Bevin’s proposal to eliminate funding for 70 programs around the state would cut an additional $10 million from UK, or 3.55 percent.

Capilouto, along with Kentucky State University President Christopher Brown and University of Louisville President Greg Postel, told lawmakers that Bevin’s budget proposal would hurt numerous groups across the state, from students who rely on scholarships to patients with lung cancer. The cuts also would hurt vital public services that support the state’s economy, the presidents argued.

For example, Bevin’s budget proposal cuts three scholarship programs focused on improving Eastern Kentucky: UK’s Robinson Scholars program for first-generation college students from Appalachia, a college completion scholarship for kids from coal-producing counties, and a mining engineering scholarship program.

The budget plan also cuts $2 million from UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research, which explores technologies for reducing pollution from coal, as well as the increasingly-important realm of battery research.

Capilouto said higher education is integral to the workforce development programs so lauded by Bevin because research helps attract new business to the state and colleges provide educated workers. He said UK helped lure EnerBlue to Pikeville last year, a battery manufacturing company that is expected to hire up to 900 people.

“We need to create with our heads and be able to manufacture with our hands and we want to be part of that endeavor,” Capilouto said.

Postel testified about the proposed loss of $5 million for lung cancer research, some of which Bevin has proposed diverting to pediatric cancer research even though the money comes from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies and is earmarked for smoking-related health care.

Brown said the cuts could harm Kentucky State’s momentum with agriculture programs such as aquaculture, which is nationally ranked.

“It would be unfortunate to call game during the first half of the process,” Brown said.

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, said legislators were becoming well-versed in the effects of budget cuts and reassured the presidents that much will change between now and April when a final budget is crafted.

“Every governor knows that the legislature writes the budget,” he said after the meeting. “We control the purse strings, and we’ll definitely see what it looks like at the end of a very long process.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford