BY JACQUELINE PITTS/Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
After a brief budget conference committee meeting Thursday, legislative leaders announced they have reached an impasse on their discussions and will go into the veto period of session without a compromise on the state’s two-year budget. The breakdown of the budget discussion means they lose their ability to override any veto by Gov. Matt Bevin on the budget.
The halt in budget discussion comes after legislative leaders had decided to move up the 59th day of the 60-day session to today, which pushed back the veto period and gave them a window to get a compromise and send it to the governor. However, the conference committee would have needed to be done with negotiations by noon Thursday to get the budget document printed and delivered to each member of the legislature before taking votes on it when they convene beginning at noon today.
The conference committee has the ability to come to an agreement over the veto period and vote on the budget in both legislative chambers on the 60th day of the session, but any areas of the budget Bevin decides to strike cannot be overriden. If the governor decides to veto the entire budget, the General Assembly will be called back in for a special session to craft a new one – likely before the July 1 date when a new biennium begins, requiring a new budget to go into effect.
According to legislative leaders after the Thursday meeting, the differences between the two sides remains the amount going toward the state’s woefully underfunded pension systems and a disagreement over cuts to higher education.
In meetings this week, the Senate Republicans reportedly offered to cut the budgets of the state’s colleges and universities by 4.5 percent rather than the full 9 percent that has been proposed but House Democratic leaders want the full funding back for higher education—a total cost of $215 million.
On Tuesday, the House proposed a compromise budget plan which included a $250 million “permanent fund” to be used for pensions in the future, something wanted by the governor and Senate Republicans. However, Senate GOP leaders countered their offer by saying there needed to be more funding put toward the pension systems in this budget than the levels they put forth in their compromise, which were originally proposed by Gov. Bevin in his budget address.
These are the issues that will continue to be debated over the next week before legislators return for the final legislative day.
Without a budget to vote on Friday, the General Assembly will likely just concur on legislation left hanging in the balance before going home for a week. The date change for the 59th day leaves legislators with only one day to deal with the budget and any other legislation when they return.
Continue following the news of the 2016 legislative session by checking The Bottom Line.