Lawmakers Dig Into Budget, Look For More Money

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - With an April 15 deadline approaching, lawmakers are preparing to turn their full attention to the state's cash-strapped budget.

House Speaker Jody Richards said Friday that legislative leaders are hoping to find additional revenue for education despite projections that Kentucky faces a $900 million revenue shortfall over the next two years.

Members of six budget subcommittees are scheduled to gather privately Sunday at the Capitol to pick through a proposed $18.5 billion behemoth in the first of a series of meetings.

"For the next two weeks, our emphasis will be on the budget," said Richards, D-Bowling Green.

Gov. Steve Beshear has described the state's financial outlook as grim. In addition to the impending shortfall, revenues fell some $434 million this year alone.

Beshear, in his budget proposal, called for substantial cuts in a variety of government programs because of the declining revenues. To help ease or eliminate at least some of those cuts, state Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, is proposing an increase in the state's cigarette tax, which is currently 30 cents per pack. He wants to raise the tax to $1 per pack, a move that would generate an extra $200 million a year.

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