Fletcher, House leaders to talk

Shawntaye Hopkins

House Democratic leaders will join Kentucky’s Republican governor next month in a discussion aimed at creating a budget for the state.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher will meet with House Democratic leaders on May 4 in his office to discuss his tax plan and the state budget – or lack thereof.

Fletcher agreed to the meeting on Sunday after phone conversations with House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green.

The meeting could lead to a special session being called by the governor, said Tom Martin, director of communications for Richards.

“What they hope to do is explore a way to break the current budget impasse,” Martin said of the House leaders.

Fletcher is still moving forward with plans for his own spending plan, said Doug Hogan, communications director for the governor. But Fletcher will meet with House leadership to attempt to end the deadlock.

“There’s still time,” Hogan said. “We still have time to try to move forward.”

The General Assembly adjourned on April 13 without passing a state budget. Fletcher indicated the next day that he would create his own spending plan to keep the state running until a budget is passed.

Fletcher does not have the authority to issue bonds in his spending plan, meaning capital projects would be put on hold.

Fletcher’s deadline to implement a state budget is July 1. The General Assembly could also pass a budget in its short session in 2005.

Martin said House democratic leaders are not willing to just let the governor make his own spending plan, and the legality of Fletcher doing so would be questioned.

House Democrats and Senate Republicans disagreed during budget planning proceedings on how to handle Fletcher’s tax plan.

Sen. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, said in a previous Herald story that it was necessary to address a tax plan before addressing the budget to ensure predictable and stable revenues.

But House Democrats believed the budget and tax plan could be discussed separately, with the budget taking priority.

The Senate attached Fletcher’s revenue-neutral tax plan onto the budget proposal it passed last month.

“We believe the adoption of a budget is the single most important responsibility of the legislature,” Richards said in a press release.

House leaders will be open to discussing the certain portions of the tax plan that would close corporate loopholes and create jobs, Richards said in the release.

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