Kentucky Capitol Building

Pictured: the Capitol Annex building in Frankfort, Ky., on Jan. 4, 2021. 

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- In an unprecedented year, Kentucky lawmakers have some extra money to work with in the budget.

Like the House's version of the budget, ideas on how to use the surplus in the Senate's budget fell down party lines: Republican senators are hoping to give money back to Kentucky taxpayers and save more than $1 billion, while Democrat senators are asking for more money to be spent funding state programs to help all Kentuckians.

The Senate committee on Appropriations and Revenue oversees the budget. Sen. Chris McDaniel, chairman of the committee, said the House's version of the budget didn't do enough for state employees with 6% raises. The Senate wants to see 10% raises each fiscal year.

For Kentucky State Police, both chambers agreed on a $15,000 raise. And both chambers agreed to boost money going into education, just not with a mandated teacher raise like Gov. Andy Beshear suggested.

"This allows them the flexibility to maintain their own current board policy," McDaniel said. "If they want to do raises, absolutely, they can. It will be different by district, but the money is there for him to do it if they want to."

But opponents argue if it's not mandated raises, it won't happen.

"So hopefully we get some time to get some input, find out what's going on and put forward really the best document for the people of Kentucky," McGarvey said about the budget as a whole.

McDaniel wants to give tax rebates.

"Inflation is just crushing Kentuckians," he said. "This is their money. They sent it to us. We didn't expect it to come in, (so) it needs to go back to them."

If passed, $500 checks for individuals and $1,000 for joint filers could go out to Kentucky taxpayers by the summer.

McGarvey argues this type of rebate doesn't help all Kentuckians and leaves a lot left over.

"How can we best use that money to benefit the people of Kentucky?" McGarvey said. "We don't operate on a deficit here. What programs have been shortchanged? How can we move Kentucky forward? That's what we need to look at."

Wednesday morning's committee meeting only lasted about 20 minutes, with the measure taken up on the floor just hours later. McGarvey condemned this timeline, saying lawmakers are expected to take a vote with a limited timeframe to digest what's in a massive budget bill.

"It's hundreds and hundreds of pages of it," he said. "We received it for the first time in committee, and 15 minutes later, we're voting on it. There's no way to know what's in it. There's no way to know what's included, what priorities we're pushing through."

McDaniel argues there's work done on the budget for months including during the interim.

"They've had the same amount of access that the Senate Republicans have," he said. "Certainly, they could have done more of their own homework."

The budget debate isn't over. Next, leadership from both chambers will get together to iron out more details in a joint committee before that version is voted on.

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