FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers finished designing a
road construction plan during a rare Saturday session, capping a
nearly weeklong special session that produced a two-year state
budget and a successful measure to fix the state's unemployment
The House and Senate completed the special session late Saturday
night after passing the $4.45 billion, two-year road plan and an
operating budget for the Transportation Cabinet. The measures were
sent to Gov. Steve Beshear.
The special session stretched into a sixth day Saturday, with
each day costing taxpayers about $63,000. House and Senate leaders
had hoped to complete the extra session Friday, but the additional
day became necessary as negotiations on the state transportation
plan dragged on.
Lawmakers had already achieved their top objective, passing a
$17.3 billion, two-year budget Friday night. The spending plan has
no new taxes and makes broad spending cuts.
The budget breakthrough ended a prolonged stalemate among House
and Senate leader that prevented a spending plan from winning final
passage during this year's 60-day regular session.
The agreement averted the threat of a partial shutdown of state
government if a new budget wasn't enacted by July 1, when the
state's next fiscal year begins.
"I think on balance, you can always say, `yeah, I'd like to
have done more,' but given the hills we had to climb and the
obstacles that we faced, I think it is a pretty good plan," House
Speaker Greg Stumbo said.
In crafting the budget, lawmakers had to overcome a projected
$1.5 billion shortfall caused by the severe economic slowdown that
has reduced state tax receipts.
Also on Friday, lawmakers passed legislation to shore up the
beleaguered Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which pays out
benefits to unemployed Kentuckians.
To rescue the debt-ridden fund, Kentucky employers would
gradually pay more in taxes, but less than if the state keeps
borrowing from the federal government to keep the fund afloat.
Jobless workers would eventually receive slightly less in
benefits and wait a short time before receiving the assistance,
starting in 2012.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)