For the first time in modern history, a GOP House and Senate wil - WDRB 41 Louisville News

For the first time in modern history, a GOP House and Senate will try to hammer out a budget deal

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House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- For the first time in modern history, Republicans are negotiating with other Republicans to pass a state budget.

They have big majorities in both chambers, but that does not mean they see eye-to-eye. The two sides are far apart with their deadline fast approaching.

The House and Senate must pass a budget by next Wednesday to be able to override any vetoes by Gov. Matt Bevin.

“We feel very strongly about retaining our veto override authority,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer.

With the General Assembly in recess on Friday and Monday, just two working days remain next week to pass a budget. As most lawmakers head home during the break, a conference committee of House and Senate leaders will stay behind to try and hammer out a deal. They are scheduled to hold their first meeting at 9 a.m. Friday.

“We are planning on being here all weekend,” Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne said.

For the first time in a century, Republicans hold majorities in both chambers and will dominate the budget negotiations.

“We don't think we'll need to work over the weekend, but that's always a possibility,” Thayer said. “I hope it means that we get a more conservative spending plan."

But their versions of the budget are much different. The Senate stripped out two tax increases from the House plan, a 50-cent per-pack hike in the cigarette tax and a 25-cent per-dose tax on opioid prescriptions.

“I think that there will ultimately end up being some revenue measure that we will pass this session,” Osborne said.

Thayer seemed to disagree.

“I don't think tax increases are on the table,” he said.

The Senate budget also includes more cuts to education programs than the House version, and Osborne said they'll continue to push for the restoration of those cuts.

But Thayer said Senate leaders will push for a leaner budget.

“We're not going to be able to do everything we want,” he said. “We’re going to try to do the things we need.”

As for Senate Bill 1, the controversial pension reform bill, it is barely breathing. But, apparently, it's not dead yet.

“I still think there's quite a bit of interest in doing it,” Osborne said. “Again, I don’t know what that will ultimately look like.”

Thayer sounded even more resolute.

“It would be calamitous if we adjourned without some sort of structural reforms for our pension systems,” he said.

There are a lot of big decisions to make and not much time to make them.

“That's called democracy,” Thayer said.

Lawmakers have four working days left in the entire 2018 session, scheduled to end April 13. They could use a snow day from earlier this year to extend the session by one day, if necessary. By law, the General Assembly must adjourn by April 15.

On Thursday evening, Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Nishimuta released a statement on the Republican's leadership's selection for three conference committee's:

“The Republican leadership selected all white males to three conference committees today, including one for our $20-billion state budget,” Mary Nishimuta, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party said. “They are sending a clear message to women and people of color in Kentucky — their voices don’t matter. Their continued attempts to silence Kentuckians is more than disgusting. It’s a shameful disservice to our Democracy.”

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