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Beshear seeks budget talks with Stumbo, Williams

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear wants to meet "as soon as possible" with Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo to discuss the legislative impasse over a state budget.

The Democratic governor sent a letter Monday to the top two legislative leaders, saying a budget resolution must be reached by June 1 to restructure debt "or we will lose the opportunity to capture $113 million for the General Fund and $64 million in the Road Fund that both chambers counted on in their budget proposals."

He also said that if the two chambers cannot agree on a budget, he would need at least a month to prepare the government for partial shutdown when the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Stumbo was unavailable for comment.

Williams said Monday night on KET's Kentucky Tonight that he would be willing to meet with Beshear but wanted the meeting to be more than a photo opportunity.

He noted that the party caucuses in the chambers, not the leaders, make the final decisions about the budget.

The Democratic-led House and the Republican-controlled Senate ended the 2010 General Assembly on Thursday without agreeing on a state budget.

Beshear recommended Monday that "the three of us meet as soon as possible to establish a process for resolving this matter."

He said he understood that the two chambers were "very close" to reaching a budget agreement before the 3½ -month session ended.

"I call upon you to not waste the hard work that has already been done, to pick up where you left off and resolve the short list of outstanding issues," the governor said.

Beshear suggested that the three use budget documents that were in consideration when the process broke down as "a jumping-off point for future discussions."

The lawmaking session ended with the two chambers pointing fingers at each other for the lack of a budget.

Several House Democratic leaders claimed the Senate was more interested in sending a political message to voters than producing a budget.

Republican senators countered that they could not accept the debt the House wanted for construction projects during the tough economy.

On Friday, Williams said he would like to see a two-year budget that does not increase business taxes, use much one-time money or make a huge increase in debt.

Williams also said he would like to see the governor include charter schools on a special session call and the special session occur after the May 18 primary elections in which all 100 House seats and 19 of the Senate's 38 seats are in play. Charter schools are granted special permits, or charters, that allow them to operate outside usual state regulations.

Williams said Monday night it would be good to reach a budget agreement before the May 18 elections "so the people could have the opportunity to determine which direction they want to go."

Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The legislature determines how long it will last.

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