State Fiscal Briefs

August 2023

Kentucky’s budget basics

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Kentucky’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2022 were $45.4 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2022 were $2.9 trillion, ranging from $5.6 billion in Wyoming to $510.0 billion in California.

Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.

Per the US Census Bureau, Kentucky’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $46.0 billion in FY 2021 (the most recent year census data were available), or $10,203 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $11,087.

(Note: We cite data from both NASBO and Census to provide a broader picture of each state’s fiscal situation. However, these sources detail spending from different levels of government in different years, and the COVID-19 pandemic and the federal government’s response to it significantly affected these totals in different ways in different years. Please only use one source if you are looking for historical comparisons.)

Kentucky’s largest spending areas per capita were public welfare ($3,536) and elementary and secondary education ($1,755). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.

Kentucky’s combined state and local general revenues were $49.8 billion in FY 2021, or $11,057 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $12,277. Kentucky uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, Kentucky’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($1,649), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and individual income taxes ($1,528).

Kentucky’s politics

Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was elected in 2019 with 49 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2023.

Kentucky has a divided government. Republicans control both the House of Representatives (80 Republicans to 20 Democrats) and Senate (31 Republicans to 7 Democrats), with veto-proof majorities in both houses. All Kentucky House seats are on the ballot in 2024 because representatives serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms; roughly half the senatorial seats are on the ballot in 2024, and the other half will be up for election in 2026.

Kentucky’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints

Kentucky uses a biennial budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget, but it can carry a deficit over into the following year. A Kentucky budget rule also limits the amount of revenue the state can raise, and because it’s a binding rule, a legislative supermajority is required to override it. A supermajority is also required for any bill that raises taxes. There are limits on total debt service incurred by the state, but not on authorized debt.

(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)

Kentucky’s current budget

Governor Beshear has not propsed an update to the FY 2023-2024 biennial budget in calendar year 2023. He gave his state of the state address in January 2023.

Kentucky enacted its FY 2023-2024 biennial budget in April 2022. The enacted budget included $42 billion in total spending and $14.1 billion in general fund spending for 2023. Kentukcy also passed an individual income tax cut in calendar year 2022, lowering the state’s flat tax rate from 5 percent to 4.5 percent.

Under the American Rescue Plan, Kentucky will receive $2.2 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $1.3 billion in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Kentucky had spent part of its ARP funds on refilling its unemployment insurance trust fund, broadband expansion, and the public health response to the pandemic.

According to NASBO, Kentucky’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:

  • FY 2022: $13.0 billion/$45.4 billion
  • FY 2021: $11.4 billion/$42.4 billion
  • FY 2020: $11.6 billion/$38.6 billion
  • FY 2019: $11.6 billion/$33.6 billion

For more on Kentucky’s budget, see the