Kentucky lawmakers returned today, Monday, March 26, 2007, for the final two days of this year’s regular session, but members of the House and Senate still cannot agree on some key issues. Several spending issues are causing a lot of debate.
Legislators considered proposals to enhance safety for state social workers to restore about $370 million of projects vetoed last year by Governor Fletcher and whether to keep a gubernatorial runoff that could come into play later this year but overshadowing the agenda was a Senate-passed overhaul of the state pension system.
The Senate is proposing the state sell more than $800 million in bonds and change benefits for future employees. The plan drew bi-partisanship in the Senate but has stalled in the House. House Speaker Jody Richards said, “lots of things can happen in the next 48 hours.”
Leaders in the State House and Senate came to Frankfort with even more differences this year. Senate President David Williams said the state retirement system needs an overhaul, or State could to be in the red.
“When we come back in January, we’re not going to have money to operate this government, continue pay raises or anything,” Senate President Williams said.
But House Speaker Jody Richards said the priority for lawmakers should be to simply restore capital projects such as building at many universities. That bill was vetoed by the governor last year.
“We feel like House Bill One is part of an agreement; part of an agreement last year,” House Speaker Richards said.
So Richards said if the Senate won’t restore the projects, then the House won’t pass a bill that would create millions in funding for a variety of projects. Included are $25 million for communities needing help because of problems at leaky Wolf Creek Dam or millions for an arena for the upcoming World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Senate passed that bill and now Williams said since the House won’t pass it, they might as well adjourn a day early.
“I really don’t see a reason to come back tomorrow and I filed a resolution a few minutes ago to sine die today. Why stay around until Friday and cost the state more money when they have made their minds up they’re not going to do anymore, unless we pass that goofy retirement bill,” Senate President Williams said.
Lawmakers usually have the final days set aside to consider vetoes, now any bills they do pass could be jeopardy of vetoes they wouldn’t have a chance to override. As of now, lawmakers will return tomorrow, Tuesday, March 27, 2007, which would be the final day of the session, but Governor Fletcher could always call them back later this year for a special session.