Kentucky budget negotiators do their best 'Crossfire' impression, as Rupp Arena lands in crosshairs

03/29/2014 11:48 AM

Somehow the state budget negotiations devolved from the start Saturday into shouting match about Obamacare, Sen. Mitch McConnell, George W. Bush, Alison Grimes and coal.

Much of the first half-hour of the discussions had little to do about the $20 billion state budget. And when it did finally turn to one of the sticking points — whether to approve bonds for renovations for Rupp Arena in Lexington — lawmakers spent another half-hour arguing whether Lexington Mayor Jim Gray could come to the table to answer questions about the project.

But the debate got most heated over national politics.

Senate President Robert Stivers opened the session just before 11:30 a.m. by pressing House Democrats on whether they are committed to getting the budget done and passed in time to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

At one point during Stivers’ opening remarks, he mentioned “Obamacare.”

“If you want to engage in that debate, that’s fine with me,” Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo shot back. “Let’s get it on.”

And it was downhill from there. Watch:

After seven minutes of that, the conversation jumped to the coal industry.

“This damn president has destroyed my part of the state,” Republican Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard said at one point, setting off a yelling match between Smith and Stumbo.

When the conversation finally returned to the budget bill at hand, Senate Republicans and House Democrats went ‘round and ‘round about Rupp Arena and whether Gray could testify about the need for $65 million in state bonds as part of the financing for the more than $300 million renovations of home arena for University of Kentucky basketball and the Lexington Convention Center.

Gray eventually did speak on the project.

(More details to come).

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