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College expansion back in budget

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By Donald Richie

Despite speculation of massive budget cuts across state government, it appears at least one local project is slated to move forward - after being delayed several times already.

When Gov. Steve Beshear unveiled his budget proposal Tuesday, included in it was reinstatement of a $1 million general fund appropriation vetoed by former Gov. Ernie Fletcher two years ago. That money was to help build an expansion to Maysville Community and Technical Colleges Licking Valley Center, here in Cynthiana.

The state funding had originally been approved in the 2006 budget, but was part of the $370 million worth of projects Fletcher vetoed.

In 2007, Fletcher promised to put the money before the legislature in the odd-year session, but it failed to make it out of the state senate.

In Beshears proposal, the money - along with over $300 million in other vetoed projects - has been reinstated.

The funding is intended to be combined with $1 million more from the community college system, and will be used to expand the campus main facility so that it can house the schools new nursing program.

I was so happy to hear Gov. Beshear is including $1 million for this much-needed building addition, said Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana. On the second day of this years legislative session, state Sen. R.J. Palmer, [LVC] director Bruce Florence, public relations director Sandy Power and I visited with the governor and emphasized the dire need for funding this project. I think that meeting helped to make a difference.

Im just as tickled as I can be, because it now means we can house the nursing program, Florence said. That was a big concern.

McKees lobbying efforts were crucial to the reinstatement, Florence said. Without his backing, she guessed the project would have stagnated.

Hes been right in there when it probably wasnt the most popular thing he could have pushed, she said.

For the school to actually receive the money, it has to be included in the final version of the states budget, which must be approved by the House and Senate.

Because of that, Florence is keeping a cautious optimism in this early stage.

I cant say its an absolute 100 percent sure thing, but since the House and the Senate have already passed this [in the 2006 session], it would be highly irregular if they went back, she said. I want to err on the side of caution and say Well, we dont have it in hand yet, but I feel like were going to.

Getting this project included in the governors budget is crucial, but it is only the first step, McKee said. We must see that the funding remains in the House and Senate versions and in the final draft that is enacted. I do want to say how grateful I am to Governor Beshear for realizing the need for this project, and I want to thank everyone who has been involved with this process. Hopefully we can have a ground-breaking later this year.

Florence said if further lobbying is needed in Frankfort, she is ready to go back and talk to whoever is necessary.

We have an awful good case, were a small community thats trying the very hardest to take care of our needs and to do for ourselves what needs to be done, she said. Im not asking [the legislature] to support us, Im asking just to give us a hand so we can support ourselves.

Thats an argument theyre willing to listen to.

With all the talk of budget cuts since Beshear took office, the notion of an expansion may have seemed to be a pipe dream, but Florence said she kept her optimism.

In fact, she said she could remember a time when the concept of having a college in Cynthiana was considered a pipe dream.

I stopped worrying about things not happening a long time ago, she said. They eventually do if you stand in line long enough.