FRANKFORT — The General Assembly will produce a slim, workable budget for the state that probably will not give raises to teachers or state employees, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday.
"I don't know of anybody who is getting a raise in this economy," Stumbo said during his weekly news conference with Senate President David Williams.
Stumbo and Williams stressed that they have "not reached an accord" on the final budget.
"Government employees from top to bottom — whether they are in education or anywhere else — cannot be expected to be completely insulated from the situation that we find ourselves in economically," Williams said.
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Legislators are trying to address an expected $1.5 billion shortfall in the state budget over the next two years.
Both Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Williams, R-Burkesville, expressed doubt that the legislature will respond to Gov. Steve Beshear's letter Thursday to House members, asking them to revisit his proposal to allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky racetracks. The proposed budget assumed $780 million in gaming revenues over the next two years.
Stumbo said the governor has the right to push gambling but that he didn't read the letter.
Williams, who opposes expanded gambling, said Beshear's letter was confrontational.
"I think that's what his approach is going to be — trying to alienate the public as far as the legislature is concerned.
"He's made certain statements to members of the legislature that if he doesn't get expanded gaming when we leave here he's going to continue to blame any cuts or efficiencies contained in the budget on the legislature and call us back immediately (for a special session)."
Williams called Beshear "a one-trick pony" for his focus on expanded gambling and said a freshman economics student could have come up with a better budget.
Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Beshear, said the budget debate isn't about gambling.
"It's about preserving our core priorities: education, health care for vulnerable citizens and public safety," she said.
"The governor has offered the only proposal that doesn't make drastic cuts, raise taxes or rely on more stimulus money we may never get," she said. "There is still plenty of time for the General Assembly to consider this proposal."
Stumbo also said Beshear is not fairly characterizing a possible legislative plan to rely on more federal stimulus dollars to balance the budget. The governor called it "a hope and a prayer."
He said it's realistic to expect Congress to extend stimulus funding for another six months.
Williams agreed, adding that it "wouldn't be prudent" to expect more than six additional months of federal dollars.
Stumbo said lawmakers are focusing on how they can best spend the dollars available to them.
He said they are looking at "a whole spectrum of things," including personal service contracts, the number of employees in state government and agencies' spending.
Stumbo said there will be no tax changes this year to deal with the budget.
Williams said he does not think Beshear will ever participate in enacting tax reform because of his push for expanded gambling.