FRANKFORT — A state Senate proposal would largely spare lawmakers from the budget ax they're using on most other state agencies to resolve a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall.
As the measure sped through the Senate Friday, there was no mention that the proposal reduces the legislative branch budget by less than half the amount proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Under Beshear's plan, the legislative budget would have been cut $6.1 million. The Senate plan reduces it by only $2.6 million.
Senate budget chairman Charlie Borders, R-Grayson, defended the move, noting that the legislative budget represents only a half of 1 percent of the state budget.
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The Senate's decision to spare the General Assembly's budget was one of many actions taken by lawmakers during a chaotic day at the Capitol.
Despite those dizzying legislative maneuvers, state lawmakers will return to the Capitol Monday to begin the second week of a special legislative session with nothing yet resolved.
Left dangling are measures to plug the budget shortfall, an overhaul of economic development incentives, a way to fund mega-transportation projects and a proposal to allow slots at racetracks.
On Friday, the fifth day of the special session called by Beshear, the Senate overwhelmingly approved an omnibus bill that included economic incentives, the mega-transportation measure and its own proposal to help the horse industry without slots.
It also signed off on its own version of the budget bill, which contained several other changes from Beshear's proposal.
Those changes included striking a provision that would require some state workers to take unpaid holidays, removing property valuation administrators from any budget cuts and providing $200,000 to drug-control efforts.
The Senate budget committee placed the budget provisions in House Bill 4, which originally was the mega-transportation measure that would set up an authority to issue bonds and pay for transportation projects that cost more than $500 million.
The Senate approved its budget plan in HB 4 on a vote of 33-0, with Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, abstaining.
Later, the Senate wrapped the mega-transportation plan and its horse industry measure into House Bill 3, which already included the economic incentives overhaul.
That omnibus bill also received unanimous support except for Stein's abstention. She said she was uncomfortable voting on bills without sufficient time to study them.
The economic incentives portion of the Senate's HB 3 includes tax breaks for the expansion of Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County if it lands a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Breeders Cup incentives and small business tax aids.
The Senate added a $5,000 tax credit for people who purchase new homes. Some House members had questions about that provision when it was first proposed earlier this year.
The mega-transportation portion of the bill would allow the possible use of tolls to pay for new bridges, but only those between Kentucky and Indiana. The most publicized mega-project has been the $4.1 billion bridges projects in Louisville over the Ohio River.
The Senate's horse industry proposal does not expand gambling. It basically raises money from taxes on lottery ticket sales and simulcasting fees to increase track purses and breeder's incentives.
It is uncertain if the special session, which costs taxpayers $60,000 a day, including weekends, will end Monday.
The House budget committee on Monday plans to take up its own version of the budget bill, which will include a list of $1.3 billion worth of school construction projects that would be funded from slots revenue.
Besides the slots bill, the House has already approved its versions of the economic incentives bill and the mega-transportation bill.
Both chambers must reach agreement on any bill before it can be sent to the governor for his consideration.