House speaker reports progress in Ky. budget talks

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky budget negotiators made progress Saturday but still had multiple options to consider in seeking
agreement on a two-year state spending plan, House Speaker Greg
Stumbo said.
House and Senate conferees met for more than five hours before
wrapping up a fourth day of closed-door talks. They planned to
return to the bargaining table Sunday afternoon.
"We're making progress on all fronts," Stumbo said. "The
process is moving forward. As it normally does, sometimes slowly,
but it's moving."
Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Bob Leeper,
a Paducah independent, said "everybody is smiling and talking,
that's the main thing."
Key differences in the rival House and Senate spending plans
include funding for public schools and a state-backed construction
program supported by the House.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said
the lawmakers were looking at different options in trying to reach
a deal - which he called a time-consuming process.
"You have to ... see the numbers and the theories and whether
they can be practically applied and working within the budget
constraints we have," Stivers said.
Asked if an agreement could be struck by Sunday, Stumbo replied,
"You see with the long hours and the intensity that's been put in,
everybody wants to get this thing resolved.
"It's been my experience when people want to resolve things,
they can resolve them."
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said some proposals would be drafted for
presentation Sunday in pursuit of an agreement.
"We've not reached a consensus, but we at least found some
common ground where we can talk about some of these issues and how
to resolve them," he said.
The Senate's $17.3 billion budget proposal included deeper
spending cuts than the House's $17.5 billion plan. The Senate's
cuts included the main state funding formula for elementary and
secondary schools. The funding formula was spared in the House
version.
But Senate leaders say their proposal gives local school
officials more flexibility to dip into capital outlay funds to help
offset the funding decrease.
Also, the Senate cut out a House plan to build new schools and
water and sewer lines - a proposal that Stumbo has said could
create 25,000 jobs.
The Senate also dropped two tax-code changes proposed by the
House that would temporarily suspend a tax write-off and speed
sales tax collections. Those tax changes, opposed by business
interests, would raise about $270 million in two years.
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The budget legislation is House Bill 290.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-03-27-10 1857EDT


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