FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear urged leaders of the House and Senate to “get their egos under control” and produce a budget by midnight Thursday, as Kentuckians expect.
He said the two chambers are “fairly close” on budget issues and there is no reason to end the regular law-making session Thursday as the Constitution requires without a spending plan for the state.
Beshear’s comments at a news conference early Wednesday afternoon came as prospects for a budget this session looked dim.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said earlier in the day that he doubted a deal on the state budget could be reached before midnight Thursday because his chamber could not accept a House “ultimatum” for a one-year budget that included hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for construction projects.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he remained hopeful about a budget in the last two days of the 60-day session.
Beshear, a Democrat, said taxpayers and he expect legislators to craft a budget to avoid a costly special session at about $64,000 a day.
“I would not want to be a legislator on the ballot this fall, standing for election or re-election, if I could not get the job done that the people sent me here for and I would be brought back up here in a special session to get paid overtime by the taxpayers of this state to do a job they were supposed to do in the last three months.”
Still, Beshear sympathized with lawmakers over the tough task of producing a budget that cuts spending. “These are very difficult times,” he said. “This is not a usual budget situation. In years past, it’s been to decide how to spend the extra money. Well, there is not any extra money. There is even less money.”
Beshear said he presented a budget in January that would generate more revenue for the state through expanded gambling but the legislature did “not have the courage to enact it.”
He declined to say which chamber is more responsible for the budget impasse that has gone on for about two weeks. “Folks just need to get their egos under control in both the House and Senate and put the people of this state in front of their own egos and look at the job done,” he said.
Beshear said there still is time for a budget and he understands both chambers have “bills in computers” that they can change instantly to enact a budget.
If there is a need for a special session, Beshear indicated it would have to take place before June 1 even thought the new fiscal year begins July 1.
“There are significant problems with timelines should we be pushed over the April 15 deadline,” Beshear said. “Both the House and Senate versions of the budget depend upon millions of dollars in revenue from restructuring bond issues and different financing mechanisms.”
“We need a budget by June 1 if we are going to create those millions of dollars with those types of restructurings to balance whatever budget we may have,” he said. “So, July 1 is not the drop-dead deadline for having a budget for this Commonwealth. June 1 would be more the deadline.
“My deadline is tomorrow night at midnight.”
Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. Beshear said he has not thought about a special session and whether he would put expanded gambling on a call for one.