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Beshear, Republicans clash over budget and broken traditions

030221 Kentucky State Capitol_1

Devastating tornadoes briefly united Republican and Democratic politicians in Kentucky last month, but the feud between legislators and Gov. Andy Beshear has resumed as attention turns to writing a new state budget.

House Republicans broke with tradition and unveiled their state budget proposal last Friday instead of waiting for Beshear to make his official budget recommendation during a televised address, scheduled for this Thursday.

Republican House Speaker David Osborne, of Prospect, said it was a “waste of time” to wait for Beshear to make his budget proposal when the GOP-led legislature will ultimately be in charge of passing the spending plan.

"The governor’s recommendations are exactly that. They are recommendations," Osborne said. "We will absolutely 100% consider his recommendations throughout the process, but I think to wait intentionally to ignore months of interim work, months of committee work, months of budget review subcommittee work is just quite frankly a waste of time."

Beshear will get little say about the final version of the budget. Republicans control 75% of seats in both chambers of the legislature and can easily override any of his vetoes.

Though the Republican plan includes some of Beshear’s own spending initiatives—like raises for state police, social workers and other state employees—on Monday, the governor questioned whether legislators can legally put together a budget plan without first taking his request into consideration

Kentucky law requires governors to submit a budget recommendation before the 10th working day of the annual legislative session, and thenlegislators are tasked with modifying that proposal.

Beshear said “it’s not wise” for lawmakers to write a budget without first consulting with the state’s chief executive.

“My hope is it was a stunt, maybe meant to take some steam out of the speech that’s coming up on Thursday and they’re not breaking with both tradition and the law and drafting a budget for the executive branch without any participation,” Beshear said.

Beshear began unveiling his own spending priorities on Monday, calling a press conference to lay out $2 billion in education investments like universal pre-k and kindergarten, higher per-pupil spending in the state’s school funding formula and a 12% increase in higher education funding,which has been slashed in recent years.

Beshear said there were positive elements of the House Republican budget, but that it amounts to “just treading water or moving ahead a couple of strokes.”

“If we leave universal pre-k on the table, shame on us. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge and who gets to make the decision,” Beshear said.

Republicans have clashed with Beshear since early on in his term,criticizing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and bristling at his frequent press conferences updating people about the state’s response to the virus.

Lawmakers passed measures curtailing the governor’s emergency powers during the pandemic,limiting his orders to 30 days unless renewed by the legislature.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.