Legislators allow a governor the final edit on budget -- again

06/05/2010 04:53 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear talks to the press

Because they keep missing their deadline to pass a state spending plan in time to override vetoes, the Kentucky General Assembly again allowed a governor the last say on what the budget would look like.

Late Friday, Gov. Steve Beshear again exercised his ability to edit the final budget bill by striking 19 provisions from the bill the General Assembly passed in a special session last month. Lawmakers allowed it to happen ending the regular legislative session April 15 without passing the $17.3 billion two-year spending plan. For details about the governor’s vetoes, check out the Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader’s coverage.

It was the third consecutive two-year budget that the legislature failed to approve in time under two different governors.

In 2008, Beshear used his veto pen to strike 10 items from the 257-page budget bill, as well as a provision in the judicial branch budget.

In 2006, Gov. Ernie Fletcher cut $370 million out of a two-year $18.1 billion budget because lawmakers waited until the last hours of the session to pass it, which allowed no time for an override.

By allowing the governor to have the last say on key bills, such as the budget, it could continue to strain the already uncomfortable relationship between Beshear and key lawmakers from his own party.

“Part of my angst is I thought the House had a good budget under the circumstances, and he didn’t support it and generally criticized it and supported more of what the Senate did, which I think is bad for education,” Rep. Harry Moberly, a Richmond Democrat told cn|2 Politics after a harsh floor speech May 26 in which he blasted the governor. “And then, I don’t think he’s been communicating with our leadership like he should be.”

“The speech doesn’t mean I might not be for him (in his 2011 re-election), but I think I was expressing a lot of frustations House legislators feel about his lack of involvement and the nature of his involvement once he did.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams didn’t issue immediate responses to Friday’s vetoes, but the House budget chairman, Rep. Rick Rand, told the Courier-Journal that he wasn’t surprised about the vetoes because the legislature gave the governor that opportunity.

Missing deadlines have become commonplace on third floor of the Capitol, as lawmakers are continually frustrated about how little time they end up getting to review the budget before being asked to vote on it in committee and on the floor.

“My understanding was it was supposed to be on our desk Tuesday morning, and it was not,” said Rep. Brent Yonts, a Democrat from Greensburg, referring to May 25 when lawmakers in the budget committee were scheduled to vote on it. “I got here at 6:30 in the morning, and it wasn’t there. I guess that’s just a failure of the system.”

Yonts, however, said he’s not aware that the frustration among the rank-and-file members will mean a leadership shake-up in January when lawmakers from each party elect their legislative leaders.

“But everything changes on a daily basis up here,” he said.

In a related story to the budget, the Herald-Leader reported that a huge chunk of the money tagged for road construction went to the districts of the legislative leaders, who negotiated the final road plan behind closed doors during the six-day special session.

- Ryan Alessi


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