House Democrats propose budget compromise in same hour Bevin and GOP call for negotiations

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican leadership of the Senate and House held a press conference Tuesday morning calling for negotiations on the budget as House Democrats waited in the budget conference committee room with a compromise plan they had worked on overnight.

After budget discussions stalled Monday evening, Gov. Bevin made a video for social media calling on the public to urge House Speaker Greg Stumbo to compromise on the budget. Tuesday morning, Stumbo and House Appropriations Chair Rick Rand came to the budget conference committee with what they stated is a compromise plan between the two sides.

In the House Democrats plan, a $250 million “permanent fund” is included to go toward pensions as well as funding to fully restore the cuts to higher education proposed by Bevin and included in the Senate GOP budget.

Those two issues have been sticking points in budget negotiations as Stumbo had expressed a lack of enthusiasm to give Bevin a $500 million “slush fund” without knowing parameters for such a fund. At the start of the budget conference committee discussions Tuesday, Senate leaders expressed a willingness to put language setting up parameters for the permanent fund onto an existing bill and send it through the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Tuesday to ensure its legitimacy as discussions move forward.

In the press conference Tuesday morning, Bevin told The Bottom Line he would accept a permanent fund with less than $500 million as long as it contains significant funds to send a message to rating agencies that the state is taking its pension problem seriously.

In terms of funding for the state’s retirement systems, the House Democrats explained their compromise plan contains the same numbers originally put forth by Gov. Bevin in his budget proposal.

In the original House and Senate versions of the budget, more money was put toward the state’s pension plans than the governor had proposed. House Democrats took those numbers back down in order to fund the other areas in this proposal.

This compromise proposal also contains money for K-12 education and the funding for the House Democrats’ “Work Ready” scholarship program that would provide free tuition for the incoming class attending the state’s community and technical colleges.

The budget reserve trust fund, also known as the “rainy day fund,” would retain a balance of $371.5 million under the plan proposed Tuesday morning.

A list of the funds discussed in the House Democrats’ plan put forth Tuesday can be seen below:

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What is not included in the proposal presented Tuesday is a bond for workforce development put forth by Bevin for $100 million which was taken down to $50 million in the Senate proposal.

In the press conference Tuesday morning, Bevin mentioned workforce multiple times when talking about what needs to come out of the budget discussions. House leaders said in the conference committee they are willing to discuss that bond.

Watch a video clip from conference committee Tuesday morning below:

In terms of when a budget will reach the governor, Bevin said Tuesday morning the time for the legislature to pass a budget and still be able to override any of his vetoes has lapsed.

Senate President Robert Stivers also said he will not budge on the April 12 date proposed as Sine Die, the end of the legislative session. Stivers said everyone has known the final date of session and the members of the General Assembly need to work with that.

Tuesday is the 58th day of the 60 day session. This means the legislature has two working days left after the veto period but the conference committee can work over that time on a budget. The catch to that is any vetoes of the budget or within the budget will stand as the General Assembly loses its ability to override vetoes once that period begins.

Watch coverage of the press conference with Governor Bevin and GOP leaders in the video below:

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Jacqueline Pitts
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