Compromise budget doesn't include $65 million for Rupp, leaders - News, Weather & Sports

Compromise budget doesn't include $65 million for Rupp, leaders say

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - It's said that nothing good happens after midnight, and for Rupp Arena on Sunday, it was true.

After hours spent in closed session, budget negotiators from Kentucky's House and Senate didn't include $65 million in state bonding for a proposed expansion of the 38-year-old arena. They did provide an unspecified amount of money for initial planning and design, and said they would ask Lexington's mayor to return next year with a better financing plan.

"We have developed a pathway for the project to go forward," said Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo after the conference committee broke at 5:30 a.m. Sunday.

Lawmakers settled issues ranging from university funding to teacher raises in an 18-hour session that got off to a shaky start because of a shouting match between party leaders. Both sides claimed the other was engaging in Washington-style politics, invoking the names of President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

They made few decisions during several hours of public meetings and only made progress after shutting out reporters Saturday afternoon.

The compromise budget calls for a 1.5 percent cut to state colleges and universities next year, and flat funding the year after that, leaders said. Gov. Steve Beshear had proposed a 2.5 percent reduction.

Each institution would receive state bond money for its highest construction priority. For the University of Louisville, the top-ranked project is an $80 million classroom building on the Belknap campus.

Lawmakers sparred over bond-funded projects, with Republicans arguing that they saddled the state with too much debt. Lawmakers ended up providing $56 million in state bonds to expand the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville, as Beshear had proposed.

Legislative leaders said they would mandate a 1 percent raise for K-12 teachers next year, followed by a 2 percent cut a year later. Beshear's proposal had included the bigger increase in the first year.

As of Sunday afternoon, they hadn't agreed upon a two-year road plan or whether to increase the state's gas tax by 1.5 percent, as Beshear and the House called for but the Senate rejected.

During the open portion of the meeting on Saturday, lawmakers began a heated debate whether to allow Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to testify about the Rupp Arena project. Senators have said the financing plan, which includes a hotel room tax increase that still needs legislative approval, was ill-conceived.

Gray ultimately got to testify and said leaving the state bond funding out of the budget would put a "stake through the heart" of the Rupp expansion.

Gray hadn't seen the budget agreement as of Sunday afternoon, said Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Gray.

Lawmakers earlier yelled at each other over the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Stumbo remarked at the time that it was the "worst shouting match" he'd seen since he joined the General Assembly in 1985, but Republican Senate President Robert Stivers later called it "a little bit of political theater."

"We have reached an agreement understanding the realities of each person's positions, each region's positions, and each party's positions," Stivers said early Sunday morning after negotiations ended.

Leaders will present the compromise budget to members of their respective parties. The House and Senate will vote Monday on the spending plan, "barring something unforeseen," Stumbo said.

Lawmakers would then break for a 10-day veto period, during which Beshear would consider the budget bills.

If he vetoes all or portions of them, the General Assembly would reconvene April 14-15 to attempt to override Beshear's decisions.

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