Disagreement over pensions, higher education lead to budget stal - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Disagreement over pensions, higher education lead to budget stalemate

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- There was a lot of finger-pointing in Frankfort Tuesday, but still no deal was reached on a new $21 billion budget for Kentucky.

There is some progress, but still major disagreement over whether to spend more on pensions or on education.

The day began with tough talk from Gov. Matt Bevin and the Republican leadership.

“The time is now upon us to get the task accomplished, to sit down in good faith,” said Bevin in a news conference outside his office.

Bevin repeated that his number one priority is shoring up the underfunded pension systems, and he accused Democrats of not negotiating in good faith.

“There has been only one party that has said we may walk out of here without a budget.  That is the one party not standing before you today. That is unacceptable. That is a weak way out,” said Bevin.

But when budget talks resumed, it was the Democrats who proposed a deal, essentially giving the governor half of the $500 million pension trust fund he wants, in exchange for restoring some of his proposed budget cuts, including education.

“I'm not about to sit here and let any governor decimate, when we don’t have to, the gains we’ve made in elementary and secondary education,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg).

But Democrats later rejected a Republican counter-offer that gave some on pensions and restored cuts to K-12 education, but did not give full funding to public universities.

Each side challenged the other's priorities.

“Have you asked, does anybody have verification of how much of a tuition increase, if we were to adopt the Senate budget, how much it would cost Kentucky families to send their children to college?” Stumbo asked Senate Republicans.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue chairman Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) responded with a question of his own.

“Under the current cash burn scenario, how long will it be until we begin to default on our employee pension obligations?” he asked.

Bottom line, both sides still appear far apart on reaching a deal, each waiting for the other to budge.

The session ends April 12, but that includes only two days when both chambers will actually meet.

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