January 19, 2018
Democrat Rep. Kelly Flood files three-cent gas fee for safer public school buses
FRANKFORT – Calling the school bus the first classroom most students enter every weekday, state Rep. Kelly Flood filed House Bill 211 today that would add a three-cent fee to the state’s gas tax and permanently dedicate the revenue to replenishing aging bus fleets.
“The state is constitutionally mandated to provide a safe and comprehensive learning environment for our students, so I think my bill is a sensible step in the right direction,” said Rep. Flood, D-Lexington. “It will make sure that a portion of what we all pay for our highways goes toward getting our students safely to and from school. We all have a vested interest in making sure these buses are held to the highest standard of care and maintenance.”
Her proposed three-cent fee would be added to the state’s portion of the gas tax, which has been 26 cents for the past three years. All of the fee – estimated at $90 million – would be directed to school transportation budgets, with $30 million going for bonds for new buses and $60 million through the same formula the state now uses to pay its share of school transportation costs.
Lawrence Co. Schools Transportation director Rick Blackburn has a proposal before the BOE that would use leasing instead of purchasing new buses; it is not clear how or if this gas tax bill will affect the decision…
Rep. Flood, the past chair of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, said her approach would make up most of the revenue that would be lost if Governor Bevin’s budget proposal to slash state spending on school transportation is enacted by the General Assembly.
His budget calls for the state to drastically lower its share of school transportation costs from $214 million annually to $87 million, with school districts called on to close the gap.
“It’s important to emphasize that the state has not really raised its share of school transportation costs over the past decade, which has already caused districts to cover an ever-increasing amount,” she said. “To put it another way, it costs about $600 per student to cover their transportation needs each year. The state is paying $359 of that now, but would drop that to $145 per child if the governor’s plan becomes law.
“The governor’s budget is a step backward because it interferes with our long-held commitment to help kids attend public schools,” she added. “Too many districts are already struggling and simply do not have money in contingency funds to make up the difference. We are already seeing the disparity between the richest and poorest districts reach a level we had before 1990’s education reforms, and the governor’s budget would just accelerate that even further. That’s unacceptable.”
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, there are 9,822 public school buses in the commonwealth, and 2016 budget figures showed that more than 1,700 were at least 15 years old.
Rep. Flood’s legislation will be considered during the current legislative session, which will end in mid-April.
House Minority Caucus