FRANKFORT — It was almost surreal.
The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.
In past years it wasn’t unusual for budget negotiations to go down to midnight on April 15 with one side or the other threatening to go home without a budget in an attempt to bully the other chamber into accepting is version.
Not this time.
House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said it was the earliest he could remember completing work on the final legislative day of a legislative session.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate would still like to receive the budget from the House sooner – but all in all, “it was a good process.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, called the work of negotiators over the weekend on a budget compromise “democracy in action.”
Perhaps it’s a new attitude or perhaps it’s the severe fiscal constraints, or just maybe lawmakers of both parties want to show voters they can get things done in an election year.
“I want to do something I haven’t often done,” Stumbo said in a floor speech. “I want to compliment the Senate.
“The gridlock that has gripped both parties in Washington didn’t come to Kentucky,” Stumbo said. Compromise and negotiation worked – “It was democracy in its purest form.”
Two Democratic Senators criticized specific aspects of the bill but both voted for it. Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, is displeased that new student fees on the Kentucky Community and Technical College campus must be spent on the campus on which they’re collected rather than being pooled throughout the system.
KCTCS’ top construction priority in previous budgets was to a new building near the Rowan County Industrial Park. There aren’t enough students at Gateway to generate the necessary funding for the new building, Blevins said.