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Kentucky Budget Talks Resume Behind Closed Doors

Senate President Robert Stivers
Legislative Research Commission
Senate President Robert Stivers

Talks have resumed behind closed doors as lawmakers try to come to an agreement on a state budget in time for a vote on the last day of the legislative session, scheduled for April 12.

The House and Senate are entrenched over how much money to contribute and save for the state pension systems and whether to cut K-12 programs and higher education institutions.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said “chances are still good” that a budget will pass in time.

“The information is being exchanged, ideas are being discussed, and there have been some very good conversations today,” he said.

To get a compromise budget ready for votes in the House and Senate on Tuesday, lawmakers would have to come to an agreement by Sunday night, Stivers said.

If lawmakers run out of time, Gov. Matt Bevin would have to call a special session -- at the cost of about $63,000 per day -- to pass a budget.

Leaders of the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate called off the negotiations last week, after they didn’t come to an agreement before Gov. Bevin’s constitutionally-required “veto period,” which lasts about a week and a half.

Now lawmakers won’t have the opportunity to override any line-item vetoes Bevin makes to their budget.

Stivers wouldn’t go into detail about the sticking points of negotiations, but he reiterated his stance that the state’s higher education institutions could manage some form of funding cuts.

“I have no doubt that the universities probably have money that they could afford to participate with. Is it something that they’d like to do? No, I’m sure it is not,” he said. “Do we want to have this type of budget? No.”

Lawmakers still have a little bit of wiggle room -- if they don't come to an agreement in time for the last legislative day on April 12, the constitution still allows them to push the last day to April 15. If that deadline isn't met, Bevin would have to call a special session to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

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