Local lawmakers say they’re interested in a proposed budget compromise but are concerned about furloughs.
Gov. Steve Beshear said during a press conference Wednesday he’ll call legislators into special session on May 24 in order to approve a two-year budget. They adjourned in April without passing one.
Beshear said he hasn’t issued the call yet and is working on putting the budget into the form of a bill. He said he will request language that gives him the power to furlough state employees.
“I don’t want to furlough anybody,” Beshear said. “But it gives us another tool and more flexibility to meet all these reduction numbers.”
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said Beshear doesn’t need any additional authority, and lawmakers will not support the request.
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said state employees have already been denied a raise and are facing higher insurance premiums.
“On top of that, furloughs would punish state employees a third time,” he said.
However, he said furloughs would be better than layoffs.
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said he hopes Beshear will consult with lawmakers before ordering furloughs.
Republican Senate President David Williams said Beshear’s compromise “falls within the parameters of something that we can work with.” Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he supports the recommendations.
Beshear’s compromise budget would also include 3.5 percent cuts in fiscal year 2011 and 4.5 percent cuts in fiscal year 2012 to many state agencies.
However, certain programs, such as K-12 education, post-secondary education, Kentucky Educational Television and Kentucky State Police would be cut a lesser amount, he said.
Rollins said he’s concerned about the proposed cuts but said the top priority is passing a budget. Graham said he was glad to see education and human services were partially protected.
That was one main point of disagreement between leaders in the House and Senate. The House wanted to protect certain priorities, including education, but the Senate preferred across-the-board cuts.
Leaders also disagreed over borrowing to fund projects and create jobs – the House supported it, and the Senate was opposed.
Beshear’s compromise budget would limit borrowing to previously approved water and sewer projects and critical needs, such as dam repairs and flood control projects. He cut proposed construction projects from $1 billion to $441 million.
Carroll said he agrees with the decision to cut funding for new projects.
“We don’t need to be borrowing money right now,” he said. “What we really need to do is take care of our on-going obligations.”
If sewer and water projects are going to be cut, road projects should also be trimmed, Graham said. He wants to target some of the additional $2 billion of road projects approved by the Senate.
The compromise budget would also restore two instructional days and maintain the calendar at 177 school days, Beshear said. The state would pay for one day, but local schools would pick up the tab for the second.
Rollins said poorer districts might have to cut jobs in order to pay for more days.
Rich Crowe, superintendent of Frankfort Independent Schools, said the additional instructional day will cost about $22,500.
“That will be an additional cost to us, but not significant and something that we can handle,” Crowe.
Harrie Buecker, superintendent of Franklin County Public Schools, did not respond to a request for comment.
The proposal would also require $290 million in savings through efficiencies in other provisions in the two-year budget, Beshear said. Also on the chopping block – contracts and non-merit jobs.
However, Beshear said it’s too early to know how many contract or non-merit jobs would be cut and where.
Beshear said he won’t revisit expanded gambling – in January he proposed using revenue from video lottery terminals at racetracks to help balance the budget but lawmakers rejected the idea.
The call will also include the Transportation Cabinet budget, the biennial highway construction plan and the six-year road plan. Graham said he hopes nothing else will be added to the call.
Beshear has warned that if a budget doesn’t pass by June 1, it would mean losing more than $100 million in savings from a debt-restructuring plan. Failing to act by June 30 would lead to a partial government shutdown. He said thousands of state employees, including state police troopers, would face layoffs.
Beshear said he would not accept a one-year “continuation” budget.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.