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Lawmakers end weekend without a deal on state budget

FRANKFORT — With time running short, state legislative leaders couldn't come to an agreement on Kentucky's two-year budget over the weekend.

House and Senate leaders concluded closed-door budget talks Sunday evening after less than four hours of negotiations. Sunday was their fifth day at the bargaining table.

Borrowing money to pay for school, water, sewer and road projects appears to be the major sticking point between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House,

The impasse means lawmakers probably will have to change the legislative calendar to allow more time for negotiations, a key Republican senator said Sunday.

Still, leaders remained positive in their public statements. "I wouldn't say there is a deadlock at this time," said Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in a written statement that the House still wants to fund nearly $1 billion in construction projects that were cut from the Senate's version of the budget.

"The Senate opened this morning with a proposal, we made a counter-proposal and now we are waiting for the Senate to come back with a response," Stumbo said Sunday night.

The House had proposed borrowing to pay for the construction projects, a move rejected by the Senate because of concerns about the state's escalating debt.

Although altering the legislative calendar was discussed Sunday, a final decision was not made, Stivers said. It also is not clear when negotiators will meet again, although it seems likely that talks will resume Monday.

The General Assembly has only four official working days remaining in the 60-day session but has some leeway on how those days are used. But to override any vetoes Gov. Steve Beshear might make during a 10-day veto period in April, lawmakers must approve a final budget by Friday.

Lawmakers are scheduled to recess for the veto period Tuesday. They would return April 12 and 13 to finish their work for the year. However, their ultimate deadline isn't until midnight April 15, when the Kentucky Constitution requires that lawmakers adjourn.