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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Reach Compromise on Tax Amnesty Program

Kentucky lawmakers seem to have reached an agreement on a bill to restart a tax amnesty program.

The program allows Kentuckians with delinquent taxes to apply for reduced payments. Governor Steve Beshear proposed the program to help raise revenue. The House scaled back Beshear’s original proposal, and the Senate made further revisions. But legislative leaders have decided to remove most of those revisions and pass the bill.

“There’s about roughly 18, 19 million dollars I believe that we rely upon in the budget to balance with based on tax amnesty so we have to have that bill,” says House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Kentuckians who receive amnesty are required to pay their taxes on time for the next three years in order for the state to fully forgive delinquent taxes.

Kentucky last had a tax amnesty program in 2001.

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Frankfort Local News

Budget Compromise Expands Coal County Scholarship Fund

A scholarship program intended to serve college students in far eastern Kentucky has been expanded.

What was originally called the Appalachian Scholarship Fund has been expanded to all coal-producing counties in Kentucky, including those in the western portion of the state. The program applies to students in the last two years of their education who attend a university, public or private, in a coal-producing county.

The intent was to keep eastern Kentucky students from leaving the area for college. But in order to get money for the program, House Speaker Greg Stumbo had to agree to the expansion.

The program has also lost its General Fund appropriation, meaning all scholarship funds must come from either coal severance money or private donations.

Out of 120 Kentucky counties, 38 of them are coal-producing.

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Frankfort Local News

Expansion of Preschool Funding Cut in Budget Compromise

An effort by Governor Steve Beshear to expand preschool services in the commonwealth did not make it into the final state budget.

Beshear put a $15 million appropriation for preschool in his budget proposal. The House cut that figure in half and funded other education programs with what was left. The Senate struck all the money, saying it wouldn’t be right to expand some programs while slashing others.

And after days of budget talks, the Senate won the argument.

“We actually didn’t fund that and to be honest to you that was the recommendation, we left about half of it in the House budget, but even our subcommittee chair their recommendation were not to expand that program, were to not fund that program at this time,” says House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Stumbo says there is a bright spot for education in the budget. Lawmakers agreed to set aside $100 million for future school construction.

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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Reach Early Morning Budget Compromise

After a night of discussions, Kentucky lawmakers have finally reached a budget agreement.

Negotiations on a budget compromise began Monday. By Tuesday, talks had stalled. Lawmakers were unable to work out differences over funding school construction, paying for indigent care at University Hospital in Louisville and reducing bonded debt. House and Senate leaders resolved their differences shortly before 3 am today. The compromise includes the House’s planned funding for school construction and U of L Hospital. It also cuts the state’s bonded debt, which was a Senate priority.

And at the last minute, lawmakers decided to put $2.5 million toward renovations to Rupp Arena in Lexington.

“We would make an offering to Lexington on a 50-50 match, we would make $1.25 million available each year to be matched for Rupp Arena,” says House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Also at the last minute, funding was restored for the Kentucky Horse Park.

“To give the governor authorization for $3.5 million out of restricted funds he has in the governor’s office for the horse park,” says Senate President David Williams.

The revised budget must now be formally rewritten and printed for lawmakers to view. It will be done in time for both chambers to pass the budget early Friday morning and then adjourn. By passing a budget this week, lawmakers will save time to override gubernatorial vetoes next month. 

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Frankfort Local News

Stumbo Says Budget Talks Have Stalled

Budget talks in Frankfort appear to have stalled.

Lawmakers have met for three straight days, usually twice a day, to resolve differences between budget proposals passed by the House and Senate. But there are firm disagreements over school construction, cuts to the governor’s office and coal severance projects.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the Senate isn’t compromising on those issues, so the potential to deliver a budget on time is in danger.

“If they continue to hold to their position that it’s my way or the highway, here we go down that highway again,” he says.

Stumbo doesn’t plan to move legislative days or work over the weekend on the budget, because that would create more gridlock.

Budget talks are expected to continue tonight.

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Frankfort Local News

School Construction Could Be A Roadblock in Budget Talks

Kentucky lawmakers continue to work on a budget compromise.

Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved budget bills and a conference committee has been meeting since Monday to work out the differences. One major point of disagreement is funding for school construction. It’s a priority for the House. But Senators were not ready to haggle during a Tuesday morning session.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the issue is so important to his chamber that a disagreement could derail budget talks.

“We feel very strongly about that because it’s not only good government, it not only replaces these facilities but it’s job creation,” he says.

The issue has caused problems between the two chambers before. But despite the disagreement and a heavy workload, Senator Robert Stivers says the conference committee is making swift progress.

“There are points that people have disagreement on but there is legitimate discussion going on, give and take, throughout the process and it’s moving forward in the 16 years I’ve been around as fast as I’ve seen it,” he says.

The conference committee members must still take up coal severance projects and preschool funding, two more potential stumbling blocks.

Lawmakers have until roughly 3 am Thursday to agree on a compromise in order to pass the budget by early Friday morning. If they don’t pass a budget this week, they may not be able to save a day later in the session to override gubernatorial vetoes.

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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Start Budget Talks, Instant Compromise Unlikely

Kentucky lawmakers will spend much of the last full week of the legislative session trying to hatch a compromise on budget bills.

House and Senate leadership started talks this morning, breaking only for committee meetings and floor duties. They are expected to continue negotiations well into the night.

So far, lawmakers have looked line by line at differences between the House and Senate budget plans. They’re looking for changes one side or the other is willing to accept without debate.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he doesn’t think a compromise can be reached by the end of today.

“I don’t know if we can get it today or not, but I think we’re, we’re not that far apart,” Stumbo says.

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Frankfort Local News

Stumbo Says Drug Bills, On-Time Budgets Will Be Highlights of 2012 Session

As the 2012 legislative session winds down, lawmakers aren’t touting a long list of accomplishments.

They say that’s not due to a lack of work, but mainly a lack of extra money to fund new programs or expand others.

Instead, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the main highlights will be a three-bill attack on Kentucky’s drug abuse problems and passing general and road budgets before the end of the session.

In recent years, lawmakers haven’t even been able to pass budgets on time. So Stumbo says this year is a return to normal.

“I’m hoping we’ve returned to some semblance of normalcy. I’ll reverse judgment as a hope you will until the final seconds tick off,” he said.

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Frankfort Local News

Plan to Create Scholarship Fund for Appalachian College Students In Trouble

A proposal to create a scholarship fund for far eastern Kentucky college students could be in jeopardy.

The Appalachian scholarship fund was intended as a compromise, after a measure to move the University of Pikeville into the state system couldn’t garner enough support. In the House’s version of the budget, lawmakers funded the scholarships with coal severance tax money.

That funding was removed in the Senate’s budget changes.

Senate President David Williams supports the scholarships. He says he was out-voted by his Republican caucus to remove the funding, but hopes the proposal will be back in the budget after a conference committee compromise.

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Frankfort Local News

Many Issues Still on the Table As Kentucky Lawmakers Wind Down 2012 Session

Kentucky’s General Assembly is heading down the stretch in the 2012 legislative session.

Lawmakers have ten legislative days left to pass budget and road plan bills, in addition to any other matter.

Many important topics that were priorities for some lawmakers—like raising the dropout age, fixing the state’s problems with Medicaid Managed Care Organizations and drug abuse legislation—has yet to pass both chambers in the same form. This means for the bills to become law, legislators will have to form conference committees and reach an agreement.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says that with the budget process more than halfway finished, there will be time for lawmakers to reach compromises on other bills in the final days of the session.