Legislators considering budget on last day

Shawntaye Hopkins

House Democrats and Senate Republicans are still wrangling over a state budget.

They have two separate agendas.

But they only have one day – today.

The General Assembly must compromise on a state budget by the end of the 2004 legislative session, which ends today. But Democratic legislators have continued to disagree on Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s tax modernization plan.

No state budget means no capital projects for Western, President Gary Ransdell said. No additional operational money was proposed for colleges and universities by the House or Senate.

Ransdell said he is hopeful that the legislators will come together and Western will get funding for projects.

The Senate budget proposed money to renovate Western’s science buildings. The House budget proposed money for science buildings and the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science, but delayed funding for the projects to 2005-06.

Ransdell said he would also like to obtain some agency bond authority for some needed projects. If given that authority, project costs would not contribute to a state debt.

When the legislature failed to create a budget two years ago, Gov. Paul Patton authorized his own spending plan, political science professor John Parker said.

Ransdell said that budget had little impact on Western because no capital projects or additional operational money was proposed.

Legislators are mainly disagreeing on how Fletcher’s tax plan should fit into the budget, Parker said.

Republicans are insisting that Democrats need to agree on the tax reform plan before they take action on the budget, he said.

The tax plan does not raise any additional revenue, and Democrats say the budget should take priority, Parker said.

There are several things that could happen if the legislature does not create a state budget by Thursday, the absolute deadline for legislative action.

Fletcher could create his own spending plan, Parker said. But the courts could rule that only money for emergency services can be spent.

“Where that leaves the schools and so forth is up in the air,” Parker said.

Fletcher could also call a special session. House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, told The Courier-Journal on April 9 that he believes Senate Republicans are putting off discussing the budget to give Fletcher time to gain public support of his tax plan and get the vote of House Democrats.

But Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, told The Courier-Journal that he believes the majority of House legislators will support the tax plan.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]