Given the experiences of recent years, we are like most Kentuckians when the General Assembly meets here at the Capitol apprehensive.
Two successive failures to pass budgets as required by the constitution are more than justification for that apprehension. Even with a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, there is no guarantee the House and Senate will agree in 2006 any more than in 2004 and 2002.
So the first challenge of the General Assembly that convened here yesterday is to fulfill its responsibility of enacting a new two-year spending plan for state government before legislators go home in mid-April.
We know that will not be easy. Despite an anticipated surplus for this fiscal year and predictions of surpluses in 2007 and 2008, the amount of new money available hardly meets the demands that will be made across the board.
Simply giving teachers and state employees pay raises and paying for their health insurance coverage will be difficult. Universities, community and technical colleges will be seeking substantial funding increases to make up for a succession of budget cuts since 2000. Medicaid looms large over everything.
Everything, of course, must await Gov. Ernie Fletchers State of the Commonwealth speech to legislators next week, when presumably he will spell out details of what he hopes to accomplish in his second and final budget before going to the voters for a second term.
His formal budget proposal will be presented later this month.
In the meantime, we suggest that the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans spend a few weeks getting along with one another. Perhaps later, when budget priorities take different paths and political ideologies inevitably clash, the experience of goodwill and civility will serve everyone well.
And those Kentuckians apprehensive about this General Assembly session will breathe a sign of relief when it ends in April with a new state budget and without the acrimonious partisan warfare of recent legislative sessions.