Beshear Says He'll Call Lawmakers Back If Economy Gets Worse

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear warned Kentucky lawmakers Thursday he may call them back to the Capitol for a special session if the state's economy keeps worsening.

The General Assembly just wrapped up days of long negotiations on a proposed two-year, $19 billion spending blueprint. The legislature approved and sent the budget to Beshear, who said he was still reviewing and considering it - a process he has until mid-April to complete.

"It's a very lean budget. It is going to cause pain in a number of places," Beshear said of the proposal. "We're going through it right now, item by item, to see what all is in there. But, you know, it's a tough budget for the people of the commonwealth."

Legislators agreed late Wednesday night on a final spending proposal negotiated in private between House and Senate leaders. They settled on a plan that cut funding for public universities by 3 percent and promises public school teachers and state workers 1 percent raises in each of the next two years.

The proposal comes with economic forecasters projecting a $900 million revenue shortfall during the next two fiscal years beginning July 1. Latest revenue figures show state collections dipped about 6 percent for March, Beshear said.

Beshear, health advocates and other lawmakers have pushed for raising the state's tax on cigarettes as a way to improve the state's finances and cut down on smoking-related illnesses. House lawmakers approved a plan that would have raised the tax on cigarettes by a quarter per pack along with imposing a sales tax on certain services.

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