FRANKFORT — Senate President David Williams prodded House Democratic leaders Thursday about the pace of a special legislative session to fix a hole in the state Medicaid budget.
In a letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, Williams noted that Thursday was the fourth day of the special session and it appears "it will be some time" before the House acts on a bill addressing the issue.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said House Republicans and Democrats are still working on a compromise budget and hope to have the full House vote on the measure early next week.
"We have concrete proposals that are being worked on," Stumbo said, adding that he has not yet talked to Williams about a possible compromise.
"Our thought is that we'll agree with ourselves first," before approaching the Senate with the compromise, Stumbo said.
He declined to provide details about the House's proposed budget, but he said it will be different from other proposals that the House has offered in the past two weeks of budget negotiations.
Williams said in his letter that "a consensus solution is everyone's goal, but we question the quick call of the special session as the House itself has not yet reached a consensus."
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear called a special session after lawmakers abruptly ended this year's regular session last week without fixing the Medicaid budget.
A special session costs taxpayers about $63,500 a day. If it runs through March 25, any savings from a shortened regular session would be wiped out by the length of the special session. Lawmakers are paid every day they are in session, including weekends.
Beshear has proposed moving $166.5 million from next year's Medicaid budget to this year's to make up for a shortfall.
Beshear and House Democratic leaders contend that the governor can generate enough savings through private managed-care contracts in Medicaid to make up the savings needed in the second year.
Senate Republicans disagree and have proposed cuts in state agencies. Education would be spared in the first year of the budget and would receive a 0.65 percent cut in the second year of the budget, under a proposed budget filed by the Senate this week.
The Senate is using its proposed budget, Senate Bill 3, as a possible road map to a compromise.
House budget chairman Rick Rand said his committee, which would consider any bill to deal with the Medicaid budget, will not meet again until Monday.
It heard testimony Thursday from state officials on how the Beshear administration has managed eight budget cuts totaling $1.3 billion since Beshear took office and the impact of any more budget cuts.
State budget director Mary Lassiter said any more cuts could mean a reduction in scholarships from lottery proceeds, closing some park facilities, not filling vacancies of child-welfare and public-assistance workers and closing some taxpayer service centers.
Rand said it's important for committee members and the public to hear such testimony and that the panel was "not dragging its feet."