Neil

Gov. Beshear “disgusted”, gives lawmakers tongue-lashing

Governor Beshear, saying he was "disgusted" issued a stern reprimand last night after lawmakers went home without passing a new state budget. You can watch his remarks here.

Governor Steve Beshear issued this stern reprimand last night after lawmakers went home without passing a new state budget.

 

 

By BRUCE SCHREINER

Associated Press Writer

     

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers went home without a new state budget Thursday, failing to break a contentious deadlock and guaranteeing a follow-up special session to try again on a spending plan to keep all of state government open this summer.

      

The prolonged budget impasse proved insurmountable as first the Senate and then the House adjourned their 2010 sessions that opened in January. The final setback came when the Senate spurned a last-minute budget offer from the top House Democrat.

     

Gov. Steve Beshear later expressed disgust with the lawmakers' inability to reach a budget deal, and said he intended to call a special session in May to get the job done.

     

A special session, coming in an election year, would cost taxpayers about $64,000 a day.

     

Beshear gave lawmakers a tongue-lashing, saying they "decided to put their egos and their personal priorities above the needs of Kentucky's families."

     

The governor urged lawmakers to keep working on a budget compromise, noting that House and Senate negotiators had resolved about 95 percent of the budget issues.

    

 "I could bring 10 citizens of the commonwealth off of the streets out here today and we could resolve those 5 percent of those issues in 10 minutes," Beshear said.

     

Failure to enact a budget before the next fiscal year begins would lead to the shutdown of some state services.

 

For example, state parks would close and many state workers would go without paychecks.

     

"It's pathetic that we have such a dysfunctional system," said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville.

     

Chances for a budget deal dissipated when Senate President David Williams declared that a so-called continuation budget proposed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo failed to garner Senate support. Williams, R-Burkesville, denounced the proposal as "a mess," and at that point dismissed chances that lawmakers would achieve a budget accord.

    

 "It is the most important job that the General Assembly has, and the General Assembly has failed to pass a budget," Williams told reporters.

     

After Williams laid out the Senate's opposition to the continuation budget, an angry Stumbo said Kentuckians had every right to be disappointed that a special session would be needed.

     

Stumbo called it a "needless" expense to taxpayers.

     

"We don't want to come back," Stumbo told reporters. "I think it's a waste of taxpayers' money to have to come back, and the very simple action of a continuation budget would have prevented us from coming back and would have saved that money."

     

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, floated the idea of a continuation budget Wednesday after top lawmakers had failed to make headway in discussions. His proposal would have given the governor the authority to continue funding state government at current levels until April 15, 2011 - spanning about three-quarters of the next fiscal year.

     

Stumbo called it "a good way to make sure the operations of government don't shut down."

     

The House approved the continuation budget on a 63-34 vote Thursday.

     

Williams said the proposal would result in deep across-the-board cuts in the second year of the state's traditional two-year budget cycle.

     

"The worst of all worlds would be to continue at a level of spending that you cannot sustain," Williams said.

     

The Senate passed a $17.3 billion two-year budget last month that called for deeper spending cuts to almost all state agencies than the House's $17.5 billion version.

     

Williams noted Thursday that the Senate had sent the House a slightly revised budget proposal early in the month that would have restored funding for elementary and secondary schools. That proposal was not brought up in the House.

     

Williams said the budget talks turned into a "philosophical deadlock." He accused House Democrats of pushing for construction projects that would have saddled the state with too much debt while resisting needed budget cuts.

     

Stumbo said it was the House that had reached out for a compromise, only to be spurned.

     

"The House has tried to meet them in the middle," Stumbo said earlier in the day. "There doesn't seem to be a way to meet them in the middle, though."

     

The key sticking point in the deadlock was a House-backed proposal for hundreds of millions in debt-financed construction, touted as a way to stimulate job growth. House Democratic leaders last week offered to scale back the overall size of the projects.

     

Stumbo said the continuation budget would not have included any new projects.

     

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, said he assumed budget talks would begin again in a short time. But first, he said, the lawmakers would probably try to get away for a bit and "take a deep breath."

     

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Who do you blame for the budget impasse?  Let me know your thoughts.

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