FRANKFORT — The state Senate voted unanimously to pass a revenue bill that included an amendment that would allow coal severance taxes to fund pharmacy scholarships at private and public schools.
A state Senate committee had approved some additional amendments to a revenue bill Friday afternoon, including the amendment that would allow using coal severance taxes to fund pharmacy scholarships at private and public schools.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who introduced the amendment in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee and later on the Senate floor, said the proposal would address concerns raised in a recent state Supreme Court decision that said state funds could not be used to build a pharmacy school at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, which is in Williams’ district.
Williams said the scholarship program will be open to all Kentucky residents, but preference would be given to those from coal-producing counties. Those who receive the scholarship would have to agree to work in coal-producing counties.
Two private colleges, Midway College and Sullivan College, have recently established pharmacy programs.
Williams said he believed the proposal would not violate the state Constitution, which prohibits “special legislation” for private entities, because the scholarship program would be open to all students, even though those from coal-producing counties would get priority.
In the recent University of the Cumberlands’ case, the justices ruled that giving money to the private-Baptist affiliated college benefited only a small category of students.
It’s not clear how much scholarship money the program would generate. It’s also not clear if the House would accept the amendment.
The state Senate had not yet taken a final vote on the budget as of 4:32 p.m. Friday, which was supposed to be the final day of a special legislative session called to address the state’s two-year budget and some other legislation.
The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee late Thursday evening approved the Senate’s version of a more than $17.1 billion budget that included money to replace some of the state’s most run-down schools and mandated changes to state employees’ health insurance. The Senate also took out some House appropriations and projects and inserted its own projects.
— Beth Musgrave