Budget negotiations hit a wall as lawmakers leave table without a deal

04/11/2016 01:20 AM

FRANKFORT — About an hour after telling reporters that he expected talks to continue for several hours late Sunday, Senate President Robert Stivers and other members of the budget conference committee abruptly left the negotiating table.

Stivers, R-Manchester, did not answer questions as he exited the Capitol Annex meeting around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other House Democratic leaders left through another exit and did not address the media.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said lawmakers on the panel had reached “a complete stalemate.”

Talks on the more than $21 billion biennial budget have been stalled as the Democrat-led House wants to lower recommended reductions for state colleges and universities while the Republican-held Senate restored Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed 9 percent cuts to help pay higher contributions to the state’s beleaguered pension systems in its version of the two-year spending plan.

The latest public proposals had House Democrats offering 2 percent reductions for postsecondary institutions in the biennium on Friday, the same day most university presidents signed a letter to Bevin and legislative leaders indicating they could handle 4.5 percent cuts in the biennium and 2 percent in the current fiscal year. Bevin had ordered 4.5 percent cuts to state universities’ fourth-quarter allotments April 1.

In a joint statement, House Democratic leaders said they’re ready to resume talks whenever the budget chairmen call another conference committee meeting.

They said Senate Republicans leaders left once talks turned to moving the 60th and last legislative day from Tuesday to another date this week. The General Assembly is set to reconvene for its final day of work on Tuesday.

“We have gone through about half of our differences document and resolved most of the disagreements in that portion,” the House Democrats said in their statement. “We also thought we had a framework for a compromise, but we learned that there were problems in some areas we thought had already been agreed to.

“We in the House remain committed to resolving the budget during this session.”

But Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, put the onus on House Democrats to break the impasse.

“Until such time as our House colleagues see fit to invest in what’s truly a collapsing pension system, we won’t have a budget,” the Senate budget chairman said after midnight Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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