FRANKFORT — Late Wednesday, Senate Republicans were considering a Democratic House proposal that would resolve some issues in a two-year, $19 billion spending plan.
The Democratic House counterproposal included more money for bonds and asked the Senate to consider adding millions of dollars in coal severance projects, or projects paid for using coal taxes. Those projects were not included in the Senate budget.
Democratic leaders offered the counterproposal shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday in response to a Senate proposal that came during the second round of negotiations, which began about 7 p.m.
Wednesday was the third day of budget negotiations.
House and Senate leaders were racing to come to an agreement in time for both chambers to approve a deal by Friday. Legislative staffers have said that it will take 36 hours to print a budget. That means that an agreement had to be made by 3 a.m. Thursday for both chambers to vote on it by Friday. If they don't meet that deadline, lawmakers still could rearrange the legislative calendar so that Saturday or Monday becomes the 59th day of the 60-workday legislative session. Wednesday was the 57th day of the session, which must end by April 15.
Lawmakers hope to preserve the final day of the session to override any vetoes Gov. Steve Beshear might issue during a 10-day window in early April.
The Senate proposal made some concessions on key issues surrounding debt and projects.
The Senate agreed to include $10 million for high-tech economic development bonds, roughly half the House proposal of $20 million. The Senate proposal would also fund $100 million for school construction in 2014-16. To do that, the House would have to agree to ax about $45 million from a different economic development bond pool.
Senate President David Williams proposed using $2.5 million from an existing $8.5 million bond pool for the downtown Lexington redevelopment project, which includes an overhaul of Rupp Arena. The city of Lexington would be required to match the grant with $2.5 million, Williams said. The House plan had included $3.5 million and no match from Lexington.
The Senate plan would also include $37 million in unspecified efficiencies over the two years.
The House counterproposal included asking the Senate to include coal severance projects in the budget and approve a new scholarship program for Eastern Kentucky students. Coal severance money would pay for the scholarship program as well.
The House counterproposal would include $36 million that the chambers could split and use on projects that they do not agree on.
But Sen. Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, and chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said with so many programs and people facing steep cuts in the upcoming budget, he did not think it was appropriate for either side to consider spending on projects.
House and Senate leaders have been meeting twice daily since Monday to try to come to an agreement on a more-than-$19 billion two-year budget.
Both chambers had agreed with Gov. Steve Beshear's original budget plan — unveiled in January — in most key areas. The plan includes 8.4 percent cuts to some areas of state government, no funding increase for the main funding formula for K-12 schools and no pay raises for state employees. The plan also nixed a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for retirees, a move designed to shore up the state's ailing pension system.
Typically, budget negotiations take place behind closed doors. This year, the budget negotiations were broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television.