Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 13, 2014

House passes $20.3B budget proposal

FRANKFORT — It took four hours and it won’t last long in its present form when it reaches the Republican-controlled state Senate, but the House passed a $20.3 billion, two-year budget late Thursday on largely but not entirely party lines.

The budget contains more money for elementary and secondary education, more for textbooks and raises for teachers and state employees. It restores money for Child Care Assistance for childcare of working poor parents, spends  $100 million for expanding broadband internet services, and offers more money for prosecutors.

But it also cuts many agencies by 5 percent after five years of budget cuts totaling $1.6 billion and adds $984 million in new debt.

But most of Thursday’s lengthy debate had more to do with procedure and politics than specifics in the budget.

On Wednesday, Democrats postponed a vote on the budget, saying members wanted more time to review it. Republicans had filed a series of amendments to the bill.

Later Wednesday, budget chairman and sponsor of the bill, Rick Rand, D-Bedford, filed a floor amendment of his own to the budget, likely the actual reason Democrats postponed the vote.

That amendment added some spending, including $25,000 annually for a public theatre in Glasgow and funding to match local taxes to build new schools in a few communities. Then Thursday, Rand called for that floor amendment rather than the original bill.

That left the Republican amendments attached to a bill which was not on the floor for discussion and leaving them no time to offer amendments to Rand’s amended version. Republican Minority Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown protested and challenged the procedure, but Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, ruled that Rand’s amended bill was in order.

That didn’t keep a series of Republicans from speaking against the bill, a lot of them criticizing it for spending tied to Gov. Steve Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid and establishment of health benefit exchanges under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

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