Budget sausage making gets ugly, legislators cool off before next round of talks

03/28/2014 02:55 PM

Now the public knows why budget conference committee meetings were done behind closed doors without the media in years past.

It can get downright nasty.

At one point during Friday morning’s open conference committee negotiations over the $20 billion two-year state spending plan, House Democrats complained that Senate Republicans were removing projects and health-related funding because they were priorities of certain Democratic lawmakers.

Senate Republicans flatly rejected the accusations. That led up to an exchange between Democratic House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark and Sen. Bob Leeper, the Senate budget chairman, which ultimately ended that session of negotiations.

“Congratulations, I still got a heart,” Clark said to Leeper.

“Sir, that is absolutely unfair to say that,” Leeper said, shaking his head in disbelief.

Here’s how that went:

House and Senate leaders and negotiators have been methodically going through each difference between the two chambers’ versions of the budget.

And House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said sometimes that causes tempers to flare.

But the two sides can’t even seem to agree on the pace and schedule for these negotiations.

Stumbo said the House Democrats are not stalling in order to delay the legislature’s final approval of the budget. The General Assembly must sign off on the document by the end of April 2 in order to be able to override any of the governor’s vetoes on the last day of the session, April 15.

But Stumbo told political reporter Nick Storm that the Democratic House leaders aren’t trying to run out the clock to allow Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear the chance to veto provisions without the fear of legislative overrides.

Meanwhile, Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters that Senate Republicans aren’t trying to target projects or health programs for any other reason than to avoid duplicate funding. Specifically, he said health screening programs aimed at helping the poor don’t need to be funded by the state government anymore because the Affordable Care Act is supposed to make sure all low-income residents have health insurance.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.