Stumbo: Budget hits snag, session might continue


by By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press Writer

Posted on May 28, 2010 at 5:24 PM

Updated Friday, May 28 at 5:48 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky lawmakers struggled to wrap up a final budget Friday as differences emerged that prompted a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations and threatened to extend the legislature's special session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the Senate budget committee made major changes Thursday night to the House's version of an approximately $17 billion, two-year state budget bill.
Unless the full Senate backs off the revisions, the budget measure would likely head to a House-Senate conference committee that would lengthen the special session, Stumbo said.
"It's obvious that we're having difficulties coming to an accord, and we have to bear the responsibility of that," he told reporters. "But I'd rather do it right and get it right."
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, was more upbeat a few hours later after meeting privately with Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.
"We're all trying to accomplish the same things; we're saying the same things," Stumbo said afterward. "We just happen to be saying them in a little bit different ways."
Legislative leaders were trying to reach an accord to prevent a conference committee, Stumbo said. He said progress was made, and said the odds were good that the special session wouldn't extend into next week, but he didn't rule out lawmakers meeting Saturday.
Senate budget committee Chairman Bob Leeper said there was still a chance to avoid a conference committee. Leeper, a Paducah Independent, said the differences between the House and Senate panel versions amount to about $8 million.
 Williams said the Senate was ready to finish work Friday.
"If we don't do it today, it won't be the Senate's fault and it won't be the governor's fault," Williams said before his meeting with Stumbo. "You can lay the fault where you might."
House and Senate leaders had consistently said they wanted to complete the special session Friday. The session began Monday, and each day of the session costs taxpayers about $63,000.
The extra session was caused by a deadlock among House and Senate leaders that prevented final passage of a new budget during the 60-day regular session that concluded in mid-April.
Lawmakers are trying to avert a partial government shutdown that would occur this summer if a new budget isn't passed before the next fiscal year begins July 1.
Both versions include spending cuts spanning much of state government as lawmakers tried to adjust for a projected $1.5 billion shortfall in writing a two-year budget.
There are no new taxes in either plan.
Among the changes made by the Senate budget panel was one to provide money to help replace some of Kentucky's most rundown schools. Stumbo said the Senate plan would not guarantee that those 14 or so schools categorized as the most dilapidated would be replaced.
Stumbo said House and Senate leaders were working on budget language that would give all school districts a chance to replace those buildings deemed in the worst disrepair.
 "We all want to see them built," Stumbo said. "It's just a matter of making sure that we do it so that they're all treated fairly."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)