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Legislators discuss budget for fourth day, no agreement reached

FRANKFORT — House and Senate leaders said the fourth day of negotiations over the state's two-year budget were amicable but stopped short of saying an agreement would be reached by Sunday.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said legislative staff are working on a series of possible options for both sides to consider when negotiations resume Sunday.

"We're making progress," Stumbo said. "Everyone wants to get this thing resolved. It's been my experience that when people want to resolve things, they can resolve them."

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, agreed, saying everyone was trying to stay open minded.

"We're working hard to get as much information as we can, and sometimes it takes a lot of time to get information back on Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Until you see that information, you can't really determine if you can build a consensus."

Lawmakers worked more than five hours Saturday trying to forge an agreement on the two-year state budget. The conference committee also worked on the two-year road plan.

One of the major differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget is how much to borrow for construction projects.

The House passed a $17.5 billion budget that included nearly $1 billion in projects, tweaked taxes on businesses and included cuts to many state agencies.

The Senate signed off on a $17.3 billion budget that included deeper cuts than the House version and nixed much of the House's construction plan. The House opted to cut two school days, to save about $72 million over the two years. The Senate had proposed across-the-board cuts to the main funding formula for K-12 education.

House leaders say they would like to see some of those construction projects back in the budget and that now is the time to borrow money for construction projects that would put people back to work. Senate leaders cut the projects because of concerns about the state's escalating debt.

The goal of the conference committee is to have a final budget bill for the lawmakers by Tuesday.