Senate majority says budget changes balanced priorities with pragmatism of getting bill approved

03/24/2014 08:59 PM

As the Senate moved on the $20 billion two-year state spending plan on Monday, the architects of the biggest changes said they tried to achieve goals of decreasing debt and the structural imbalance of the budget while not increasing the likeliness of a stalemate.

Take, for instance, language that would block any state general funds from being used to pay for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The federal government is paying 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to those who make 138 percent of the federal poverty rate until 2017. And federal grants have funded the majority of the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange. Because the budget bill only lasts for two years, that language should have little effect on the programs because Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration told senators the programs can be run without general funds, said Sen. Bob Leeper, the Paducah independent who chairs the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

Leeper said going any further than that language would likely result in a stalemate with House negotiators.

The Senate version of the budget also dramatically lowers the amount of debt the commonwealth would take on through new projects.

It cuts nearly every university project that would be funded through general-fund-supported bonds except the Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville and an advanced manufacturing training center in Georgetown that the state promised Toyota it would create to help prepare workers.

Instead, the Senate diverted funds to help restore the proposed 2.5 percent cut to public college and university operations.

After the Senate adjourned on Monday, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, Leeper and several key budget committee members held an impromptu press conference where they explained the rationale for their budget process.

Stivers explained the process they used to determine the criteria behind issuing bonds for projects.

- Political Reporter Nick Storm contributed to this report.


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