Kentucky House, Senate leaders resume budget negotiations

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The budget talks fell apart last week, but on Wednesday lawmakers came back together to continue their budget negotiations.

Senate President Robert Stivers says he and House Speaker Greg Stumbo are meeting with other members of the budget committee to try to reach an agreement.

Lawmakers can only meet for one more work day in the legislative session that ends on April 15.

"It's happened many times before and this is something that has happened. It's not unusual. I don't want to say it's common, but it's happened before and we've dealt with it before," noted Stivers.

If they are going to pass a budget, Stivers says they have to agree on the state's two year spending plan before they meet for their final work day.

The sticking point in the budget battle has been Governor Matt Bevin's proposed cuts to public colleges and universities.

The cuts would impose a nine percent cut over the next two fiscal years.

Bevin ordered a 4.5 percent cut for the remainder of this fiscal year after lawmakers reached an impasse last week.

"The governor has exempted various areas of state government such as public protection and health and human services. Everybody else he asked to take a 9% cut because we have one huge issue, a fiscal issue, and that's the pensions," said Stivers.

The Democrat controlled House is concerned the education cuts will hurt state schools.

Stivers thinks the House will compromise on the higher education cuts.

He is confident a budget will be approved by the end of the general assembly.

If the House and the Senate don't pass a budget by April 15, the governor could call a special session. Those sessions drain the state's reserve funds of tens of thousands of dollars a day.

A partial government shutdown will be triggered if a budget isn't passed by June 30th.

Stumbo could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. His aides say the budget bill deadline could be pushed back to as late as April 15th, if needed. Right now, they're hoping to vote on a budget April 12th.

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