FRANKFORT — After six days of wrangling, the General Assembly adjourned a special legislative session late Saturday after House and Senate leaders agreed on a two-year road budget.
The Senate voted 34-2 just before 10:30 p.m. to approve compromise versions of a $4.4 billion road plan and a nearly $5 billion operations budget for the Transportation Cabinet. The House unanimously approved the two measures just before 10:45 p.m.
Without the legislation, which lawmakers failed to approve in the regular legislative session that ended April 15, the Transportation Cabinet would have essentially shut down on July 1 and all state road work would have come to a halt.
Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the two-year road plan was "responsible and balanced." Senate President David Williams said the plan calls for borrowing $400 million, about $100 million more than lawmakers had previously suggested.
The road plan includes money to begin adding concrete barriers to the median of a deadly stretch of Interstate 65 in Hart and LaRue Counties, said Sen. Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield. A Mennonite family from Marrowbone were among 11 people killed in March on that stretch of road when a tractor-trailer crossed the median and struck a van carrying the family.
No other details of the plan were publicly discussed as the bills were considered in the House and Senate.
Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, and Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, voted against the measures.
Stein said there was not enough time for lawmakers to review either bill. Most lawmakers were not given paper copies of either plan and had to review the bills on computer screens at their desks on the Senate floor.
"How can we be expected to make a rational and reasonable vote?" Stein asked.
The Senate Transportation Committee had approved the measures minutes earlier with no discussion.
After months of haggling, the General Assembly passed a $17.3 billion two-year state budget Friday that included cuts to most state agencies, money to fix the state's most dilapidated schools and no new taxes. Legislators had hoped to adjourn on Friday, the fifth day of the special legislative session, but could not reach an agreement on the state's road plans.
The two sides worked late Friday and Saturday to broker a deal on the plan to build hundreds of road projects.
The state's road plan has long been a source of political contention. House Democrats said Senate Republicans were trying to load up the state's road plans with too much debt. Senate Republicans countered that the House was trying to dictate how most of the state's road money was going to be spent without giving senators enough input.