General Assembly approves plan to balance budget

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky General Assembly approved a
plan Wednesday to erase a $1 billion budget shortfall brought on by
the faltering economy.

The plan calls for applying $740 million in federal economic
stimulus money to the state budget. The remainder of the shortfall
would be handled largely through a 2.6 percent cut to government

The proposal cleared both the House and Senate without any
dissenting votes. Gov. Steve Beshear was reviewing the bill and
planned to meet with the news media Wednesday afternoon.

House and Senate negotiators tentatively agreed on the no-frills
budget modifications Tuesday evening. They also reached tentative
agreements on two other plans: one to build new Ohio River bridges
between Kentucky and Indiana and another to provide an incentives
package to spur economic development.

Those initiatives, coupled in a single piece of legislation,
also won final approval by the General Assembly on Wednesday.

In the budget adjustments, the state's financially strapped
prosecutors and public defenders were shielded from the cuts.
Instead, they would get more money to pay staffers handling heavy
case loads.

Lawmakers dropped a provision that would have taken away up to
five paid holidays from state employees, a moneysaving measure that
Gov. Steve Beshear had proposed.

Beshear ordered lawmakers back to the Capitol last week to deal
with a deepening state budget hole.

Intense focus quickly hardened last week around a proposal to
allow slots at Kentucky horse tracks. That measure passed the House
but died in a Senate committee.

Beshear had said allowing so-called "video lottery terminals"
for casino-style games like slots could generate up to $300 million
a year through an accompanying gambling tax.

Lawmakers have for years considered plans that would expand
gambling in Kentucky, which already allows people to bet on horse
racing, bingo, pull-tabs and a state lottery.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus