Road bill hangs in the balance as leaders trade accusations on eve of session's final day

04/14/2014 08:31 PM

As legislators prepare for the final day of the 2014 session, House and Senate leaders exchanged charges Monday night about who was at fault for a last minute communication breakdown over funding for priority road and bridge projects.

Sen. President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, began Monday by saying House leaders had gone back on their word from a weekend compromise to the road funding plan.

Stivers told reporters if lawmakers can’t agree on a road plan he would be in favor of returning to the current plan enacted in 2012. But he said Monday night that he believed there was still time to get a deal done.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told reporters throughout the day that Stivers had it wrong and that House Democrats didn’t break any deal.

“The working group that met Friday agreed to the parameters that each chamber would work toward, and that legislative staff would then merge them into a single document. The conference committee would then meet in public to resolve any differences,” Stumbo said late Monday in a follow-up statement. “We in the House were prepared to do that this morning, with the hope that we could have an agreed-upon road plan to give staff no later than 6 p.m. That would make it possible for the General Assembly to vote on it tomorrow, since it takes 24 hours to have the plan ready for a vote.”

He passed the blame on to Senate leadership, criticizing them for enjoying dinner as the House adjourned for the night.

As a result, Stumbo predicted that legislators would require a special session to come to an agreement on the road plan.

Stumbo said Gov. Steve Beshear was acting as a negotiator with the two groups and he said talks would continue into tonight.

Beshear told reporters Monday afternoon that he would not be in favor of returning to the current road plan as a default. And when pressed by reporters about the prospect of a special session, he said “hopefully won’t be faced with the decision” on whether or not to call one.

But Beshear did seem to think there was time enough to put a plan in place.

But if recent history has been any guide, lawmakers have about a 50-50 chance of pulling out a deal on the road plan or ending up in legislative overtime.

Lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on the road priority list before the 2012 session ended, forcing them to come back the next week for a five-day special session. In other sessions, they’ve been able to pull out 11th hour deals in time to pass.


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