Committee approves budget of 'fear not of hope'

05/25/2010 11:09 AM

One by one, lawmakers voted yes on the two-year state budget bill shortly before 11 a.m. Monday after less than an hour of discussion. But many made it clear they weren’t happy about it.

Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat and House budget chairman, right, stands with Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro

Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville, called it a “budget out of fear not a budget of hope” — words echoed by Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort.

Denham lamented the fact that the budget didn’t include construction funds for category five schools, which are the most run-down buildings in the K-12 system. Instead, the bill will spend about $2 million to study which schools are most in need.

Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, said he would reluctantly support it.

“I don’t like this bill,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of here in five days or face all kinds of consequences,” Adams said.

“A bad budget is superior to no budget at all,” said Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester.

Then the filled committee room fell silent as Rep. Charlie Siler, a Corbin Republican, spoke. A veteran lawmaker who lost in his Republican primary on Tuesday, said he might have voted differently a week ago because he heard from constituents frustrated that the General Assembly failed in its duty to pass a budget. But he said a bad budget is worse than no budget at all because once it’s passed, the money is spent.

“Take that as sour grapes, and that will be the last you hear about it from me,” Siler said. “I vote ‘No.’”

Another retiring lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Ron Weston, D-Louisville, blamed the bill on “political posturing” during the last session and urged the media to investigate who, for election reasons, forced the General Assembly to have to compromise, presumably pointing the finger at Senate Republicans, who were on on the other end of the negotiating table from House Democrats.

Just two members voted against the budget bill during the committee meeting: Siler and Rep. Fred Nesler, D-Mayfield.

“These are unprecedented times,” said the House budget committee chairman, Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford. “We will leave here by Friday, I believe, with a balanced budget as we’re required to.”

- Ryan Alessi


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