By Ronnie Ellis/CNHI News Service
The chairman of the Senate budget committee said Thursday afternoon the Senate is likely to restore authorization for at least some category five schools in its version of the budget.
Sen. Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, said a floor amendment will be offered with language “pertaining to category 5 schools. It will be a formula that will allow some category 5 schools to be built.” He wouldn’t elaborate.
The committee met at 2 p.m. Thursday and was expected to take up the budget — but it didn’t. Leeper said the bill was still being drafted and including some last-minute changes. “We’re just trying to make sure everything is correct, the language is correct. We’re just trying to get things right on a short time schedule.”
The committee was scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m., after the full Senate session at 4 p.m.
The committee did take up the separate revenue measure which funds the budget and added tax credits for Toyota, the distilled spirits industry and small businesses.
Leeper said part of the reason was to tempt some companies to locate to Kentucky and in others to create job. He said the tax credits wouldn’t significantly affect the state’s revenue in the biennium covered by the budget — some of them, including that for Toyota take place in later years — but might create jobs which could offset any of the revenue reductions from the tax credits.
The House has already passed its version of a $17.1 billion, two-year budget and the Senate hopes to act by Friday in time for the House to concur or for a quick conference committee resolution between the two versions. That scenario is what brought lawmakers back to Frankfort. After weeks of conciliatory rhetoric between the two chambers, an impasse developed in the final days and lawmakers left town without a budget.
After the 2005 Supreme Court ruling in Fletcher vs. Commonwealth, the governor can no longer implement his own spending plan in the absence of a legislatively enacted budget appropriation. Without a budget, much of state government would shut down. So Gov. Steve Beshear called lawmakers back this week to pass a budget compromise proposal he’d offered, something House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, asked him to do.
Beshear placed on the agenda the budget, a road plan, a bill to allow bourbon samplings at tourist events and a plan to shore up the state’s depleted unemployment insurance trust fund. Both sides said they’d agreed to both. But the House made changes in the budget as the Senate clearly intends to do and the House also voted down the bourbon sampling bill.
Lawmakers vowed to complete action on all the items by Friday, the fifth day and the shortest time possible for a special session to pass legislation. Special sessions aren’t popular politically because they cost about $64,000 a day and many lawmakers heard during the time they were home that they’d failed to do the job they were elected to do.
Earlier Thursday, Beshear said even if lawmakers get a budget deal it will be a “painful” budget plan and the next two years will be difficult.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.