Kentucky lawmakers argue the day away with budget still unsettled
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky lawmakers spent Friday trying to score political points by accusing others of wanting to watch NCAA basketball instead of debating the budget.
The state's two-year, $20 billion spending plan did receive plenty of debate, but budget negotiators from the House and Senate made few decisions for the third straight day. They called it quits in time for the tournament game between the universities of Louisville and Kentucky.
"I'm not going to the game. I don't think any members are going to the game. But some might like to go home and watch it on television," Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.
Even though there was no resolution, lawmakers were more polite in the evening session than during a rocky morning meeting. That gathering broke up abruptly when Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, accused a senator of not caring about cancer patients.
Democrats were seeking to add cancer treatment programs into the budget. Republicans accused them of making the additions only for the benefit of their home districts.
"People in my district thought we were going to get the kinds of things you're talking about, and I've resisted that every time," said Sen. Bob Leeper, the Paducah independent who chairs the Senate's budget committee. "I've been consistent."
"Congratulations," Clark interrupted. "I've still got a heart."
Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, quickly asked for a break so lawmakers could go to lunch.
Earlier, Democrats complained that Senate Republicans weren't budging on relatively low-cost health programs.
"Do you want a budget or not?" Clark demanded.
Republicans used the health program requests to attack Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama's plan must not be working if supplemental programs are necessary, Senate President Robert Stivers said.
Lawmakers made minor compromises, but it could take a closed-door meeting to agree to large-scale deals. Both sides have said the toughest negotiations will be over debt-funded projects, such as the proposed Rupp Arena and Kentucky International Convention Center expansions.
Members of both parties squabbled over the debate timeline. They will likely return to the state Capitol on Saturday, and senators said they wanted an agreement in place by Monday.
But Stumbo said the House was willing to use Tuesday and Wednesday, the 58th and 59th days of the legislative session, respectively, to finish negotiations.
Kentucky's constitutional allows 60 days in the session, leaving April 15 as the only day to override any of Gov. Steve Beshear's potential vetoes in early April.
The House voted 97-1 to approve a snow day relief bill, allowing the hardest-hit Kentucky districts to finish school on June 6. The Senate passed the measure Thursday.
Beshear said he would sign the legislation into law on Monday, and told district administrators that they should now feel comfortable in setting their calendars.