Amid a $91 million state revenue shortfall, the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee approved $1.3 billion worth of contracts this month. Outgoing Republican Sen. Sara Beth Gregory is a co-chair of the committee. She says the high dollar figure comes at the beginning of a new fiscal year, when large numbers of contracts are typically renewed -- about 1,700 contracts in July alone.
But Gregory says that there are still contracts that creep into the committee that warrant more scrutiny from the public and the media.
“It is somewhat surprising how much is overseen by this committee and how much comes before this committee or has the potential to come before this committee with relatively little press coverage,” said Gregory.
Gregory says the committee’s decisions can be overruled by the secretary of the finance cabinet, and that the best they can do is try to draw attention to contracts that award more money than they should.
The Legislative Ethics Commission reports that despite a reduction in contracts for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the amount swelled to $3.4 billion from 2007 to 2011.
House and Senate lawmakers are far from agreeing on how to spend $20 billion in tax money during the next two years.
Talks broke down early Friday afternoon over $1 million for expanded cancer screenings and $500,000 to replace a roof at a domestic violence shelter in Louisville.
Senate Republicans argued the cancer screening money is unnecessary now that Medicaid and private insurance plans are required to pay for them under the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats say the money is still needed because not everyone has signed up for insurance yet.
Lawmakers have yet to discuss big issues in the budget, including a 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax and $65 million for the renovation of Rupp Arena in Lexington.
The Kentucky Senate works this week to put its mark on a two year budget. Members have been reviewing spending and program needs the last few weeks, but now it's decision time. Budget Committee Chair Bob Leeper says it's likely to make for some late nights.
"We haven't made any concrete decisions at this point. Want to watch and see how the House affected the budget, see what their priorities were," said Leeper. "Our job now is to spend late nights working on it and try to put what we think is a responsible budget forward when we get through with it."
The Kentucky House passed its version of the 20 million dollar budget last week. Senate leaders have complained the House plan contains too much borrowing.
"A pretty notable contrast that we want to do what we believe is fiscally responsible, that we want to have reasonable debt, we want to limit out structural imbalance," said Senate President Rob Stivers.
Stivers says the House sent the budget down to the Senate a couple of days earlier than previous years. He and House leaders anticipate getting together in a couple of weeks to attempt to iron out differences between the budgets passed in each chamber.
Trustees at the University of Kentucky have voted in favor of a $2.6 billion budget for the coming year. The plan offers no pay raises for UK employees, but President Eli Capilouto says he hopes to set aside funds for 5% merit pay raises for staff and faculty in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
A key committee of the WKU Board of Regents has given approval to a new budget for 2012-2013. Meeting in the Cornelius Martin Regents Room on the WKU Campus, members of the Finance and Budget Committee approved a $388 million budget, which includes a 2% pay raise for faculty and staff.
After a night of discussions, Kentucky lawmakers have finally reached a budget agreement. Negotiations on a budget compromise began Monday. By Tuesday, talks had stalled. Lawmakers were unable to work out differences over funding school construction, paying for indigent care at University Hospital in Louisville and reducing bonded debt. House and Senate leaders resolved their differences shortly before 3 am today.
Kentucky lawmakers continue to work on a budget compromise. Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved budget bills and a conference committee has been meeting since Monday to work out the differences. One major point of disagreement is funding for school construction.
The legislative session is winding down, but budget negotiations are just beginning for Kentucky’s Senate. The House passed their version of budgets for all three branches of state government last week. But Senate Budget Chairman Bob Leeper says that doesn’t mean the Senate will be able to act quickly on the plan.