Kentucky lawmakers unable to reach budget deal on Sunday

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) – Kentucky lawmakers met for hours on Sunday, but were unable to come to an agreement on a budget. One senator described the negotiations as a "complete stalemate".

The last scheduled day for the 2016 legislative session is Tuesday. Lawmakers were hoping come to an agreement during Sunday's meeting so that the lengthy budget bill would be ready for a vote by the full House and Senate on Tuesday.

The Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have been at odds over the 2016-2018 state budget bill for much of the legislative session.

The main disagreement is the funding for state universities. The Senate has been siding with Governor Matt Bevin's proposed cuts to help with the state's pension funds. Democrats don't want to cut the universities' budget at all.

On Friday, the House said they could agree on a two percent cut.

Sen. Chris McDaniel said that House and Senate negotiators finally agreed on cuts of 4.5 percent for state colleges and universities. But they couldn't agree on how much to spend on state's public pension debt, estimated at more than $30 billion.

Lawmakers took a break for dinner around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. At that time, Senate leader Robert Stivers said they were making good progress.

After working for a few hours after dinner, Senator Stivers gave an update saying progress was continuing. He explained they would continue making decisions and then go back and do bottom line calculations. He said, with confidence, he expects to have a budget bill ready to be voted on Tuesday.

"We are working very hard, diligent. We commend everyone for their professionalism and decorum and being very focused," Senator Stivers told WKYT.

Lawmakers wrapped up talks around 11:30p.m. on Sunday without an agreement.

House Democratic leadership released a statement late Sunday night.

“It is unfortunate that the Senate walked away during discussions about changing the calendar. Because of the late hour, and the considerable amount of work remaining, we recommended moving the General Assembly’s last day to Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. This would save a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars by avoiding a special session.
“We have gone through about half of our differences document and resolved most of the disagreements in that portion. We also thought we had a framework for a compromise, but we learned that there were problems in some areas we thought had already been agreed to.
“We in the House remain committed to resolving the budget during this session. We are ready to get together again at the call of the budget chairs.”

Lawmakers plan to get back together on Tuesday, the final day of the 2016 legislative session. They say they plan on Tuesday being the final meeting day of the session, however that could be delayed if needed.

If lawmakers don't pass a budget, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin would have to call an expensive special session of the state legislature or risk a partial shutdown of government services. A Bevin spokeswoman declined to comment.

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