FRANKFORT — The state House passed a two-year $17.1 billion budget Wednesday that included cuts to most state agencies, no new taxes and no raises for state workers.
The House voted 94-4 to pass the measure.
The budget now heads to the Senate, where leaders hope to pass it by Friday, when legislators anticipate they will conclude the special session.
Its fate in the Senate is still unknown. The bill will probably be heard Thursday by the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee. Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he expects the full Senate to vote on a budget Friday.
Senate Budget Chairman Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, said before the House vote on Wednesday that there appeared to be no "deal breakers" in the House budget. However, the Senate did have some concerns, including the deletion of some state funding for the replacement of Category Five school buildings — those that are in the worst physical shape.
The House deleted the measure because there was not enough money to replace all of the state's Category Five schools. Leeper said some Senate members would still like to see that language included in the budget. Leeper said they have also asked Gov. Steve Beshear if language in the House budget regarding furloughs of state employees was too restrictive.
"We're not necessarily saying that we're going to pass their budget as is," Leeper said.
Beshear called a special legislative session that started Monday after legislators could not agree on a budget before the regular session adjourned April 15.
Beshear, who proposed a budget that is a blend of the House and Senate versions, has warned that if there is no budget by July 1, some state government offices would be forced to shut down.
The budget must address a nearly $1.5 billion shortfall over the next two years.
Many House members expressed concerns about requiring school districts to pay for one school day. Overall, most state agencies received a 3.5 percent cut in the first year and a 4.5 percent cut in the second year of the budget.
Tough on state employees
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, whose district includes parts of Franklin County, said he was going to vote for the budget but he felt that state employees were being asked to sacrifice a lot. Furloughs are also possible.
"Our state employees did not get a raise," Rollins said. "People are working hard and they're getting paid less."
Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, who is retiring this year, filed a bill during the special legislative session to allow charter schools in Kentucky on a limited basis.
Moberly criticized Beshear for not putting the charter schools bill on the agenda for the session. "Where is the leadership?" Moberly said.
The Democratic governor said he wished Moberly the best in his retirement, but he said Moberly was misinformed on charter schools.
"His own leadership in the House has indicated to me privately and said publicly that they did not want that issue on the call."
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said there were not enough votes in the House to pass a charter schools bill.
Christian school impasse
Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, was one of four members who voted against the budget bill. Jenkins said that she could not support the measure because about $100,000 in coal severance money was going to a private Christian school in Breathitt County.
A recent state Supreme Court opinion said that the state could not give money to private religious institutions.
House Budget Chairman Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said that the appropriation to the school will be taken out of the budget by the Senate. Rand said that Rep. Teddy Edmonds, D-Jackson, who sponsored the appropriation, had asked that it be taken out before Wednesday's vote. Rand said it was his fault that the measure was not deleted.
Also on Wednesday, the House approved a series of bills that will address the state's transportation budgets, which are separate from the executive branch budget. The House and Senate have been at odds over how billions of dollars in road money should be spent.
The House passed a memorandum on Wednesday that would allow work on the state's road projects to continue if no agreement between the two chambers is reached.