Franklin County

Lawmakers push budget negotiations another day

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers will not return until Thursday for the 58th day of the 60-day legislative session — a move designed to provide more time to craft an agreement on the state's two-year budget.

Tuesday was the sixth day of budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders. The two sides talked informally throughout the day, then went into a conference room shortly before 5 p.m. and stayed there until about 10 p.m.

Afterward, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he hopes an agreement can be reached soon. The two sides will continue negotiations on Wednesday morning and hope to have an agreement by Wednesday night.

Legislators are working against the clock as they try to iron out differences between House and Senate versions of the two-year, more than $17 billion budget. Key differences between the two proposals include how to cut K-12 education and whether to borrow money to pay for construction.

Monday was the 57th day of the 60-day session. The legislature had been scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday and had two remaining days in April to consider any veto by Gov. Steve Beshear. But the legislature decided not to meet Tuesday or Wednesday to give negotiators more time to work.

If the legislature holds the 58th and 59th day Thursday and Friday, it can use April 15 to consider any vetoes.

The session must end by midnight April 15.

Before entering the negotiating room in the Capitol Annex, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said an agreement had not yet been reached. He said he expected lawmakers to eventually reach an agreement, but not Tuesday night.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, did not comment before entering the room, which is closed to the public.

So far, House and Senate leaders have said little about what is holding up an agreement on the budget. But Stumbo has indicated that he would like to see more construction projects, which he says will create thousands of jobs, included in the final budget.

The House plan includes nearly $1 billion for roads, water, sewer and school construction projects. House leaders have said the plan could retain or create up to 25,000 jobs. The Senate cut those construction projects, saying that now was not the time to borrow more money and bury the state in more debt.

Both sides have said they want to have an agreement inked by Wednesday so lawmakers can vote on the document by Friday.