Kentucky budget

LRC Public Information

After hours of negotiations on Sunday, state lawmakers once again failed to agree on a budget, halting their meeting abruptly at about 11:30 p.m.

The failure raises doubts about whether the House and Senate can agree on a budget by the end of this year’s General Assembly on Tuesday. Lawmakers will likely have to adjust the legislative calendar to approve a budget bill before the legislature is scheduled to disband for the year.

“It appears to be at a complete stalemate,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones, a Democrat from Pikeville.

Lawmakers had planned to come to an agreement on Sunday to have a budget bill ready for votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday. While it appears the budget conference committee will not have an agreement in time, lawmakers had no plans to alter the official calendar.

LRC Public Information

House Democrats say they would agree to spend less on state colleges and universities if it means lawmakers could reach an agreement on a two-year plan to spend more than $65 billion in public money.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said House leaders offered a compromise on Wednesday that would reduce spending on higher education by 2 percent in the budget year that begins July 1. Spending levels would remain the same for the following budget year.

Senate Republicans have insisted on cuts to higher education in order to pay more money toward the state's public pension debt. House Democrats had refused to make any cuts to public education. Stumbo said the proposal retains his party's commitment to education while moving the budget process forward.

Senate Republicans have not responded to the proposal.

LRC Public Information

Talks have resumed behind closed doors as lawmakers try to come to an agreement on a state budget in time for a vote on the last day of the legislative session, scheduled for April 12.

The House and Senate are entrenched over how much money to contribute and save for the state pension systems and whether to cut K-12 programs and higher education institutions.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said “chances are still good” that a budget will pass in time.

“The information is being exchanged, ideas are being discussed, and there have been some very good conversations today,” he said.

To get a compromise budget ready for votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday, lawmakers would have to come to an agreement by Sunday night, Stivers said.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky lawmakers are deadlocked on a state budget, with no resolution in sight.

If a compromise isn’t reached by April 15, Gov. Matt Bevin will likely have to have to call a special legislative session — which costs taxpayers about $70,000 per day.

And if lawmakers don’t come up with a state budget by June 30, the state will be sent into a partial government shutdown. That means parts of state government would temporarily close, leaving thousands of state workers without pay.

Federally mandated programs like Medicaid and public education would continue.

Lawmakers disagree over how much to cut from K-12 and higher education funding.

Republicans want to put the savings into current and future payments into the state pension systems. Democrats want to shield education from cuts.

Legislative leaders say they’ll negotiate this week, but no official meetings have been scheduled.

Rhonda Miller, WKU Public Radio

A day after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin issued an order cutting the state’s current contribution to higher education by 4.5 percent, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear said that move is illegal.

In a news conference late Friday afternoon, Beshear — the state’s top law enforcement official — told Bevin to rescind his order, which made the cuts to state colleges and universities. He said if the governor did not do so within seven days, his office would file suit.

“That is the exact type of power our democracy, our constitution, our liberty explicitly forbids,” Beshear said.

In a letter reducing the appropriation to higher education, Bevin cited a state law he said gives him the authority to make the cuts. The law forbids “allotments in excess of the amount appropriated to that budget unit in a branch budget bill” but says nothing about reduced appropriations.

WKU

WKU President Gary Ransdell has issued a statement Friday morning in response to Gov. Matt Bevin's order that state universities immediately incur a 4.5 percent funding cut.

Bevin has told his Finance and Administration Secretary and Budget Director to make the cuts to the quarterly transfers of funds scheduled to take place Friday to the state's eight public universities and Community and Technical College System.

Here is Ransdell's statement:

"We are aware of the Governor's decision to proceed with cutting 4.5 percent from university budgets by withholding it from the fourth quarterly allotments that are scheduled for today. Our budget is complex and nearly two-thirds personnel. We will likely have to tap some of our reserve funds to manage a $3.5 million reduction at this late date in the fiscal year, but we will make those decisions in the next few days.”

University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey also issued a statement Friday morning.

WKU

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has ordered immediate 4.5 percent cuts in state funding to all public colleges and universities.

The order comes as state lawmakers are locked in a stalemate over a two-year state spending plan. House and Senate leaders broke off negotiations on Thursday because Senate Republicans insisted on budget cuts for higher education while Democrats refused.

Bevin first proposed his mid-year budget cuts in January as part of a plan to cut state spending by $650 million and use the savings to begin to pay down the state’s public pension debt.

The House and the Senate did not include Bevin’s 4.5 percent mid-year cuts in their budget proposals. But Bevin, citing a state law that allows him to reduce allotments for executive branch agencies, cut their budgets anyway.

UPDATE: Budget Talks Have Broken Down In Frankfort

Mar 31, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Legislative leaders in Frankfort say budget negotiations have broken down, putting a two-year spending plan in jeopardy.

Members of the House and Senate budget conference committee said Thursday they were unable to reach a deal. They have met privately for several days trying to reach a compromise in time for the legislature to approve the deal on Friday.

House Democrats insist they will not allow budget cuts for education. Senate Republicans say the cuts are needed to help pay down the state’s more than $30 billion pension debt.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

State lawmakers have once again called off budget negotiations, hoping to hammer out a compromise on Thursday.

Lawmakers met in small groups privately on Wednesday afternoon, but they provided no indication that they were any closer to an agreement by the end of the day.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered no details of which parts of the budget lawmakers still couldn’t agree on.

“We have some tentative frameworks established, and I think everyone will keep working hard towards a final product,” he said.

The last time lawmakers publicly discussed budget specifics, they clashed over how to start fixing the state’s ailing pension systems and whether to cut K-12 and higher education funding.

Kentucky LRC

Members of the Kentucky House and Senate will not meet in session Wednesday, but budget negotiations will continue. After talks came to a standstill this week, leaders from both chambers decided to work on the spending plan Wednesday and likely Thursday, and then call members back into session on Friday.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo was asked if this strategy would work. “If it doesn’t work, it won’t be because we didn’t try,” Stumbo said. “This is pretty normal in the closing days of a lot of sessions, there is a little bit of confusion. We are working very desperately to get a budget, very hard to get a budget.”

Both chambers remain divided on two key points: the Democratic House wants to restore proposed funding cuts to higher education. The Republican Senate wants to use money attained through reductions to address the state’s pension crisis.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer is cautiously optimistic.

“Everything is in flux, but we’re not at a stalemate anymore,” said Thayer. “Conversations are cordial and I still feel like there’s a good chance we can come up with a compromise.”

Thayer said for a compromise plan to work, each side has to give a little. Neither chamber is scheduled to meet in session again until Friday.

J. Tyler Franklin

Lawmakers are back at the table after budget negotiations stalled Monday night amid deep differences over how to start fixing the state pension systems and how much money to cut from K-12 and higher education.

Tuesday morning, Gov. Bevin, along with Republican leaders of the House and Senate, held a formal press conference calling out Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo for delaying the budget process.

“There will be tremendous pain inflicted upon the people of Kentucky if the Speaker does not sit down and come up with a budget. It is up to him,” Bevin said.

Bevin accused Stumbo of “not taking this process seriously.”

House leaders later proposed the beginnings of a compromise plan. It includes some of Bevin’s proposals for the pension system, along with reduced cuts to education.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky House of Representatives has officially rejected the state Senate's budget proposal and appointed a conference committee to work out a compromise.

The Democratic majority of the state House did not concur with the Senate's changes to the more than $65 billion two-year state spending plan. House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed six Democrats and three Republicans to the conference committee. Senate President Robert Stivers appointed six Republicans and four Democrats to the committee.

The key difference between the two sides is the $650 million in proposed spending cuts from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Senate Republicans mostly support the cuts while House Democrats mostly oppose them.

The committee met Thursday night and is scheduled to meet again on Friday. Leaders from both parties say they hope to have a compromise by Wednesday.

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky Senate passed a budget bill on Wednesday that contains most of Gov. Matt Bevin’s nearly across-the-board proposed spending cuts, including deep cuts to higher education.

The Senate budget also aligns closely with Bevin’s proposal to set aside money in the state rainy day fund and a “permanent fund” that Bevin says would be dedicated to shoring up the pension systems in the future.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee chairman Chris McDaniel said the proposal is “structurally balanced.”

“We have to address our current problems in order to be able to invest in our future opportunities,” he said. “There are no one-time moneys used for current expenses.”

Bevin proposed — with a few exceptions — cutting state spending in all departments by 9 percent over the next two years and 4.5 percent for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Senate President Expects Budget Vote Soon

Mar 21, 2016
LRC Public Information

The leader of the Kentucky Senate says he’s anticipating a vote on the state budget Tuesday or Wednesday. But, Senate President Robert Stivers is concerned about leaving enough time to pass a spending plan.

House Democratic leaders initially proposed to borrow more than $3 billion to help resolve the state’s pension debts, but later rescinded that recommendation.  Stivers says that change removed at least one area of debate. “I think it was a move that was, by far, more fiscally responsible to put more monies into the pension plans than to try to bond it,” said Stivers.

Although much of Governor Bevin’s spending recommendations are included in the democratic house budget, there are also many changes. For instance, the house restored funding to higher education.

J. Tyler Franklin

After a five-hour debate, the state House of Representatives approved a budget bill on Wednesday. All 53 House Democrats voted in favor of the bill, while all 47 Republicans abstained.

The measure would restore cuts to K-12 and higher education made under Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget. It also would increase the state’s contribution to the teacher retirement system by taking money Bevin set aside for future contributions to the woefully underfunded pension systems.

The bill now heads to the Republican-led Senate, where it’s expected to change.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said the budget was an “education statement” by the House.

“I’d rather have the vote saying, ‘I voted in favor of restoring those cuts, I voted in favor of reducing the debt, I voted in favor of making sure the pension systems were sound, and I voted in favor of not letting the governor have a $500 million slush fund,’” he said.

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