Capitol filled with uncertainty as special session begins

05/24/2010 12:47 PM

(UPDATED WITH VIDEO) FRANKFORT — Legislative leaders opened the special legislative session Monday by trying to ease fears amid concerns that state budget agreements between the state House and Senate were unraveling.

“We will be here one week,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said to reporters before entering House chambers.

How they arrive at agreements on a two-year state spending plan and a road construction plan will be the big question. If the session goes past Friday, the budget item for approving a two-year or six-year road plan could be to blame, Stumbo said.

Sen. Bob Leeper, a Paducah independent and the Senate budget committee chairman, said the Senate will file a version of the budget that Gov. Steve Beshear proposed May 12. He said the Senate is making the rare move of introducing the spending plan “just in case” negotiations break down over the version that the House is expected to introduce Monday.

Few lawmakers, including Leeper, say they’ve seen that version. And the road plan appears to be creating headaches already, he said.

“That seems to be a pretty difficult situation,” Leeper said, as lawmakers seek to make sure money for construction projects is “spread evenly” across the state.

Stumbo said discussions on the road plan topic with Senate President David Williams were on-going as late as 10 p.m. Sunday. At that meeting, Stumbo said that Williams had turned over his priorities in the road plan, allowing for common ground to be found.

Another sticking point could be the one school day that the legislature is proposing each district pays, instead of receiving funding from state government. In the original budget discussions, the House cut the two school days added years ago. The Senate included those days in its version.

Stumbo reiterated the House’s original stance of cutting those two days, but said in interest of ending the session quickly what was proposed in the compromise budget would pass.

“I am not fond of the two extra days, but they are in the governor’s budget and in the interest of getting something done quickly, the House will approve it,” Stumbo said. “But I side with the teachers.

Asked if he would add any items to the budget, Stumbo responded, “No.”

- Kenny Colston and Ryan Alessi with video produced by Don Weber

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