Kentucky House OKs $20 billion budget after squabbles
Rep. Stan Lee
House Speaker Greg Stumbo
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Debate over Kentucky's budget turned into arguments on gay marriage and health care before the House finally approved the state's spending plan Thursday.
The 53-46 vote came mostly along party lines, with two Republicans voting for the budget and two Democrats against. The two-year, $20.3 billion spending plan includes more money for K-12 schools but cuts for nearly every state agency, including state universities.
Republicans fell short every time they tried to make changes, such as de-funding the state's implementation of the Affordable Care Act and stripping money from the attorney general's office over a recent same-sex marriage decision.
"Come next year, you're going to see our plan up close and personal when a different group gets to write the budget," said Rep. Stan Lee (R-Lexington) a leading critic of the budget plan.
Republicans filed several amendments to the budget, but Democrats blocked the effort by offering a second budget bill contained in their own amendment. They then ruled the Republican efforts not relevant.
Democrats attacked after the vote, saying Republicans were taking marching orders from their party leaders in Washington.
"The budget bill is too important to Kentucky to play partisan politics with, and you saw them try to play partisan politics with it today," House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.
The budget went along with Gov. Steve Beshear's recommendation for millions of dollars in funding increases for K-12 classrooms, including new textbooks and technology. To pay for it, the budget includes 5 percent cuts for many state agencies and a 2.5 percent decrease for state universities, including the University of Louisville.
The budget spends about $234 million on raises. Teachers would receive a 2 percent pay increase next year, while state workers would get raises based on their salary levels. Lawmakers also included raises for legislative staff, something Beshear didn't propose.
Republicans complained about the level of state debt in the budget, including bond projects to build a new classroom building on the University of Louisville campus and renovate Rupp Arena.
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, was one of the Democrats who voted against the spending plan. Wayne said lawmakers could've done more to improve the lives of Kentuckians. He had concerns about forcing a full-time technical college student to pay more than $100 more per semester for construction projects.
The budget bill now moves to the Senate, which will make its own changes. Stumbo said he was confident the legislature could agree on a spending plan before the April 15 deadline.