Gov. Bevin vetoes biennial revenue bill, parts of judicial branch budget

04/08/2016 09:03 PM

Gov. Matt Bevin has vetoed all or part of two budget bills that drew complaints from Senate Republicans, who said they could not amend the bills because the House delayed in sending the biennial budget across the Capitol.

On Friday, Bevin vetoed the biennial revenue bill, House Bill 423, in its entirety and line-item vetoed sections of the judicial branch’s two-year budget, House Bill 306, that would have directed $2.1 million to pay raises for circuit clerks and $23.5 million in transfers to the General Fund.

Some of those vetoes were anticipated before lawmakers left Frankfort.

Ahead of the veto break, the House amended Senate Bill 126 to include a $36.4 million supplemental appropriation to the judicial branch’s biennial budget, and, notwithstanding any laws to the contrary, some of those funds could be used to increase pay for circuit court clerks and judges. The House passed SB 126 on an 85-9 vote April 1.

Bevin, in his line-item veto messages on HB 306, said the legislation did not suspend a law limiting the General Assembly’s ability to increase circuit clerks’ wages, and the proposed fund transfers “would risk placing the Judiciary in a position that could potentially negatively impact Kentuckians access to the Courts.”

“It is imperative, however, that the Judicial Branch must continue seeking operational efficiencies and make the maximum effort to collect mandated court costs and fees, which are waived too often for reasons other than an individual’s inability to pay,” the governor wrote.

Budget negotiators also discussed possible changes to the biennial revenue measure, which can be handled through so-called vehicle bills like SB 126 for the judiciary’s appropriation. HB 423 would have cost the General Fund more than $60 million, according to an analysis by the Legislative Research Commission.

“Given the overall financial condition of the Commonwealth and its massive unfunded pension liabilities, now is not the time to pass additional tax expenditures however meritorious each provision may be,” Bevin wrote in his veto message on HB 423.

“Each of the proposed tax changes contained in House Bill 423 would be appropriate for debate and potential inclusion in a comprehensive tax reform proposal, whereby the entire tax code and appropriateness of each individual tax expenditure can be properly weighed against others.”

Spokesmen for House and Senate leaders said their offices are reviewing Bevin’s vetoes.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, told Pure Politics that a two-year revenue measure could re-emerge in a vehicle bill, but lawmakers don’t need to pass one to enact a budget.

“If we don’t do any revenue raising or cutting measures like that, we don’t really have to have a revenue bill,” McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said in a phone interview Friday evening. “Now that being said, there’s several vehicles that are already out there that could be utilized for that, but I don’t particularly know of any off the top of my head that we’re looking at.”

Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Both pieces of legislation were mired in the Republican-led Senate’s charge that House Democrats stalled in passing their version of the two-year budget, House Bill 303. Democrats have said HB 303 and other budget bills passed the lower chamber around the typical date.

March 16, the day HB 303 and other budget bills passed the lower chamber, marked the 49th legislative day of this year’s session. The Courier-Journal reported that in the most recent budget sessions after new governors took office — 2004 and 2008 — the House voted on biennial spending legislation on the 44th legislative day.

Democrats on the budget conference committee also requested the Senate pass all biennial spending plans so the panel could consider them all at once, so the Senate passed HB 306 and HB 423, along with the legislative branch budget, without amending any of the bills.

“That meant we had to pass them the next day, and so the House had to live with the ideas that they’d proposed,” McDaniel said, adding that the House’s decision to amend SB 126 to address issues in the judicial branch spending plan reflects “the fact that they know that they sent a bad budget over.”

HB 306 and HB 423 are the only bills vetoed by Bevin thus far.

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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