Williams: Budget Deal Unlikely

By Rick Howlett and Tony McVeigh, Kentucky Public Radio

The 2010 Kentucky General Assembly resumed this morning with a two-year state budget among the unfinished business.

Senate President David Williams says it appears that an agreement on a spending plan is unlikely before the session adjourns.

Lawmakers have until the end of Thursday to approve a new two-year budget or Gov. Steve Beshear would have to call a special session.

House and Senate negotiators have been meeting behind closed doors for weeks, trying to resolve differences over taking on debt for construction projects, but have been unable to reach a compromise.

House Democrats say the projects would create thousands of jobs, but Republicans who control the Senate say they are wary of taking on additional debt in the current economic climate.

The Kentucky Education Association is urging state lawmakers to reach a compromise on the budget. Sharon Oxendine, who chairs the 41,000 member organization, says KEA has no preference between the House and Senate budget proposals.

“And the reason why is because there is not adequate funding. We’ve had studies, back in 2004, that showed that public schools in Kentucky were under-funded in excess of a billion dollars. So, I would say over the course of these last six years, we’re getting closer to two billion. And what we’re asking for now is to just maintain funding,” she said.

Oxendine says KEA supports comprehensive tax reform and expanded gambling, but leaves it to lawmakers to find the money needed to meet the needs of Kentucky’s school children.

“That’s their job,” she said.