UPDATED AT 2:30 P.M.
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President David Williams met privately for about an hour Friday afternoon in an attempt to work out differences between their two chambers on a state budget bill.
Stumbo said after “the very productive” meeting that he was more optimistic that the legislature could enact a budget bill, but he said the final vote on it might not come until Saturday.
He noted that it could take 12 hours to print an amended budget bill before lawmakers voted on it.
“The odds that we won’t have to go into next week are very good. I can’t promise that we won’t have to go at least into tomorrow because it does take about 12 hours to print for enrolling and engrossing,” he said. “But we are making significant progress.”
Earlier in the day, Stumbo had said that a Senate committee’s changes in the state budget bill may extend the special legislative session into this weekend or next week.
Those comments from Stumbo to reporters came early Friday morning before the House and Senate met to begin what Gov. Steve Beshear and others hope is the fifth and final day of a special legislative session that is costing taxpayers more than $63,000 a day.
On Thursday, the Senate budget committee made several changes to the House budget bill, including adding money to replace some of the state’s most dilapidated school buildings, mandating changes to the state employees’ health insurance plan and nixing funding for for a private Christian school in Breathitt County.
Stumbo said he had hoped that the legislative session would end Friday but he was not aware earlier in the week that the Senate might make changes to the House version of the bill.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the budget bill later Friday. If the Senate does not remove the Senate committee’s changes and return to the original House bill, a conference committee made up of representatives from both chambers will be needed to try to iron out differences between the two chambers, said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
That would mean the two chambers would vote on the conference committee’s report Saturday or next week, Stumbo said.
A conference committee could be avoided if the Senate adopts the House budget, he said.
If the Senate should approve a budget bill later Friday and then adjourn, putting he House in an accept-it-or-reject-it position, Stumbo said “we won’t have a budget.”
He added: “Keeneland is not running today so I have hopes they will stay around for awhile.”
Later, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, chided Stumbo for making “pejorative, outrageous and vitriolic statements”, but then said those statements are “rolling off our back like water.”
Stumbo said he was concerned about the Senate committee’s change concerning dilapidated schools, referred to as Category 5 schools. “What the Senate does is give preference to two districts — in McCracken County and Beechwood,” Stumbo said.
He said the Senate plan doesn’t guarantee that other school districts would ever get their schools replaced.
“We’re for building all the category 5 schools. That’s our position,” Stumbo said. “We’re for bonding and allowing the districts that can’t afford to build them a way to build them.”
Stumbo also said the Senate committee deleted some of the House-pushed directives to state agencies but kept the Senate-pushed directives.
Williams and Senate Budget Chairman Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, say the Category 5 construction plan was fair to all the schools. Both said Stumbo and House leaders should read the plan in detail before making snap judgments.
“If he would read the documents we sent down there…” Williams said.
Both chambers met briefly Friday morning before recessing until later in the afternoon. The full Senate has not yet voted on the budget, the state’s road plans or a bill that would help the state’s unemployment insurance fund.
In the afternoon, the Senate budget committee met and approved an amendment to the budget bill to clarify that there would be funding for all Category 5 schools. The committee also approved funding to two health foundations — one for head injuries and the other for epilepsy.
Stumbo said he doubts the House would approve any potential Senate changes to a bill designed to shore up the state’s unemployment insurance program.
State Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said Thursday night he may present some changes to the bill on the floor Friday that would further decrease benefits to workers out of jobs.
–Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave