Gov. Bevin: No special session if General Assembly adjourns without budget

04/12/2016 07:04 PM

UPDATED FRANKFORT — If the General Assembly adjourns sine die without a budget in his first session as governor, Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday that he will not call lawmakers back to the Capitol.

Bevin said it’ll be up to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and other Democratic leaders to compromise on a $21 billion biennial budget. Without a spending plan in place, state government will face a partial shutdown July 1, and the first-year governor said House Democrats would be to blame if that occurred.

“Many things that are near and dear to many of your viewers and listeners and readers will not be funded,” Bevin told reporters outside the Capitol Rotunda. “That is unacceptable, but I will not reward the inability to do that job, perhaps out of a desire to get extra money, I don’t know what the reason would be. There’s no reason not to get a budget.”

“And so if that pain and suffering is to be inflicted as a result of intransigence on the part of our current people responsible for getting this done, including Speaker Stumbo, if that were to happen, he can take that to his constituents and explain why he chose to unroll that on their particular situation,” he continued.

A special session would cost taxpayers nearly $63,000 per day and must last at least five days.

Lawmakers on the budget conference committee have ended talks until 11 a.m. Wednesday after meeting for about seven hours negotiating behind closed doors. Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said Tuesday that the panel “made some pretty good progress today.

“We’ve resolved a lot of things,” he said after the budget meeting adjourned around 9 p.m. “… A lot of the big issues are still kind of out there pending right now, but at the end of the day I think we’ve seen some good progress today. We’ve gotten through a lot of items.”

McDaniel said he is more confident that lawmakers will reach a compromise on the budget by Friday, but he cautioned that he is “still not going to say that it’ll definitely happen.”

“But certainly I think both sides are sitting down and talking with the intent of arriving at one,” he said.

Legislative leaders have said they’ve reached an accord on a major budgetary sticking point, agreeing to 4.5 percent cuts for postsecondary institutions over the biennium, but other spending spending proposals, like the House’s Work Ready Kentucky scholarship program and 2 percent cuts for higher education in the current fiscal year, remain unresolved.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, countered Bevin’s remarks by calling the governor’s budget “one of the worst I’ve seen submitted by a governor in my 35 years in the Capitol,” saying that the governor erroneously cut the Department of Veterans Affairs when that agency was supposed to be exempt and offered no specific language on his proposed $100 million workforce development bond pool and $250 million fund to help pay future pension contributions to the state’s beleaguered pension funds.

The speaker also took Bevin to task for his proposed spending cuts for state colleges and universities, which the governor and Senate Republicans contend is necessary to make higher payments to the pension systems.

“All this with $900 million in new revenue available and the ability to fully fund pension requirements without cuts to education,” Stumbo said in a statement.

“We are working hard to get a budget in time, but the only helpful thing he has brought to the entire process is advocating for moving back the final day of the legislative session. That’s not much of a legacy.”

Stumbo and other House Democrats should shoulder the blame if budget talks break down before sine die on Friday, according to Bevin, but he doesn’t expect to face much fallout if a spending plan fails to pass. Bevin says he’s “been the one who time and again has stepped forward and encouraged people to do their job.”

“Your average person who has to get things done on time in their own lives, they understand what’s at stake,” he said. “Frankly, they’re not very appreciative of the kind of games that get played in this town. A lot of the dissatisfaction, a lot of the jadedness, a lot of the whatever the case might be that people have for elected officials sometimes comes as a result of what they see, of people playing games at their expense.

“They’re weary of it. They’re tired of it. As governor of this state, I’m tired of it. We owe people better than this.”

Bevin also took a swipe at Attorney General Andy Beshear, who on Monday sued the governor over his order cutting quarterly allotments for higher education.

He disputed the attorney general’s statement that his action is not political and said the lawsuit against his administration is a “distraction” meant to divert attention “from the incredible amount of corruption and static and disfunction in his own office,” a reference to federal bribery charges against a former top deputy in his office former Personnel Cabinet secretary under his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear.

“I would encourage him to get his own house in order,” Bevin said.

The governor’s comments come as three Louisville Democrats— Reps. Joni Jenkins, Darryl Owens and Jim Wayne — filed a motion to join Beshear’s lawsuit.

“We carefully weigh the best use of taxpayer dollars in preparing each budget and enact those deliberations into law,” Wayne said in a statement. “The Governor cannot ignore this painstaking work of the people’s elected representatives by usurping the power of the legislature and chop essential state aid.”

Correction: A previous version of this report indicated that budget negotiators had agreed to 2 percent cuts to postsecondary institutions in the current fiscal year. They have agreed to 4.5 percent spending reductions in the biennium but not the 2 percent cuts this year, according to House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green.


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