Fletcher Issues $9.4 Billion Spending 'Plan'

By Shannon Davidson

(FRANKFORT, Ky., June 28th, 2004, 6 p.m.) -- The current state budget comes to an end at midnight June 30th, but to make sure public services don't come to a halt, Gov. Ernie Fletcher has put a "public services continuation plan" in place. It calls for $9.4 billion of spending through the end of September. WAVE 3's Shannon Davidson has the story.

Without a state budget in place, Gov. Ernie Fletcher is implementing a quarterly spending plan that will run from July 1st through September 30th. Under the plan, state employee jobs are safe for now. "We do not feel we can keep our commitments to providing the services and immediately cut up to 3,000 state employees."

Under Fletcher's plan, all state employees and teachers will receive pay raises of two percent. But for teachers, 1.5 percent of their increase will come from local school districts, with the remainder coming from the state's general fund.

Department of Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit says the two percent increase for teachers isn't a surprise. "It does provide us some stability, we now have specific guidelines, and we will be operating in that context."

However, there is one fly in the ointment: three state lawmakers are joining a lawsuit filed by the attorney general. The suit questions whether the governor has the power to operate state government without a budget approved by the General Assembly.

Even though Gov. Fletcher is calling a "plan," not a "budget," Pierce Whites, Assistant Deputy Attorney General says "I don't think that what you call it, or the length of time for which it's in effect, has any impact on the constitutional consideration."

The governor says the lawsuit is just one more thing getting in the way of funding the state's services. This lawsuit, from several Democrats, and Rep. Nunn, would in effect send the guards of Eddyville home, and leave the people of Kentucky at the whims of some of the most heinous criminals. But to do that, I would not be keeping my oath of office to serve the people of this great commonwealth."

Under the governor's plan, $5 million will go toward the Capital Construction Contingency Fund, but that money is for authorized projects. There is a bit of good news: the state is expected to end this fiscal year with $139 million more in general fund revenue than was forecast in January. That could mean good things for fiscal years 2005-06.

Online Reporter: Shannon Davidson

Online Producer: Michael Dever