UPDATE: Lawmakers pass pared down state budget as legislators manage COVID-19 concerns

UPDATE: Lawmakers pass pared down state budget as legislators manage COVID-19 concerns
Kentucky legislators at the Capitol in Frankfort. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – Kentucky lawmakers voted to pass a state budget Wednesday - a budget that is nothing like what the governor proposed, or what legislators thought it would be a few weeks ago.

The budget, a one-year plan, is a bare-bones approach, largely in response to the new reality faced by Kentuckians in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The budget includes no increases in education spending, no new social workers, and public workers and teachers won't be getting a raise.

"I wish I could stand here today excited about this document, says Representative Steven Rudy (R-Paducah). "But, this is the best we could do with this current situation."

"In the meantime, we have little choice but to focus on our core responsibilities and Kentuckians have access to the safety new accessibilities they may need," echoes Representative Joni Jenkins (D-Louisville.)

The Senate approved the executive branch budget by a vote of 34-0. The House followed with an 80-10 vote. The budget is a compromise version of the spending plans approved by the House and Senate.

In effect, it keeps spending at current levels.

The budget does fully fund teacher and state worker pensions at $1.2 billion dollars, but that could be reduced if state revenues dip less than 5% of projections.

It now goes to Governor Beshear’s desk where he can sign or veto certain parts of the budget.

Original story: Published Wed 1:02 PM, Apr 01, 2020

Kentucky lawmakers are back in Frankfort on Wednesday, focused on passing a spending plan.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the plan is expected to be significantly different than the budget debated a few weeks ago.

Both House and Senate are gaveling in at noon, and lawmakers tell WKYT that not only has the budget undergone changes, but how they are likely to vote on the budget has altered as well.

The budget legislators are working on is a one-year spending plan, and lawmakers will likely have to come back in either a special session or address the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s revenues in the regular session next January.

Because of virus concerns, lawmakers will be voting on the budget in a much different way.

Legislators will be going into the House chambers in groups of 25 to mark their attendance, then they will get ballots that they will take with them. As long as they are voting on the capital groups they will then either email or text their votes into leadership. This is all being done for purposes of social distancing.

A spokesperson for the House leadership tells WKYT to her knowledge this is the first time in the state’s history voting has been done like this.

As for the budget itself, it’s expected to be more austere and bare bones than what the Governor proposed in January or what the House approved on March 6.

Governor Beshear explained, saying, “Like everyone else out there who is having to make sacrifices, at least what I want out of the budget is going to have to be a sacrifice, too.”

Kentucky lawmakers are expected to adjourn today as soon as both chambers pass the budget. They still have the option of returning April 14 and 15 after a veto session.