Franklin County

Governor, legislative leaders talk about budget, but agreement is elusive

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear urged lawmakers Friday to avoid raising taxes or adding big amounts of debt in laying out guidelines for an elusive budget deal that must win General Assembly approval to avoid a partial government shutdown.

More than a week after lawmakers ended their 60-day session without a new budget, Beshear met with House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams. The goal was to jump-start negotiations on a state spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

If the budget impasse lingers into summer, state government faces a partial shutdown if a new budget isn't enacted before the July 1 start of the next fiscal year.

"The alternative to getting it done is ugly," Beshear warned Friday.

Beshear said he laid out some basic parameters during the closed-door meeting that he'd like to see as guideposts in crafting the next budget.

First, lawmakers should resist any new taxes, Beshear said, warning that any broad-based tax increase would hurt the state's economic recovery.

Beshear said lawmakers should also avoid adding significant new amounts of debt without including money to pay for it, but added "there has to be room for compromise" on the issue.

Williams, R-Burkesville, said that the Democratic governor's comments "were realistic based upon the situation that we find ourselves in."

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the next budget should reduce the size of government, while taking some of those savings to invest in construction projects that he touts as "Kentucky Jobs for Kentucky Families."

Beshear also said he'd like to see the state's basic funding formula for elementary and secondary education untouched by cuts, but added: "I don't know whether we can end up there or not at this point, simply because of the amount of money that has to be reduced from this budget."