Governor/House Leaders Meeting "Cordial", But Little Progress

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In their first face-to-face meeting since the General Assembly's adjournment in mid-April, Governor Ernie Fletcher and House Speaker Jody Richards described their talks as "cordial," but said only "baby steps" were made.

The Republican Governor and Democratic leaders met for one hour and 45 minutes to re-open negotiations over the state's budget crisis. The House and Senate have passed two different versions of the budget: the Senate's version includes Governor Fletcher's tax reform plan, but the House's does not.

Fletcher says the tax reform plan should be included to help stimulate the economy and fund future budgets, but House leaders say the tax reform issue should be delayed until next January.

If the two chambers can't reach a compromise by June 30, the state government could partially shut down, leaving the state to be run by the Governor's limited spending plan.

Both sides said today's meeting was a good start, but did not signal any significant concessions or progress on reaching a compromise. Fletcher and Richards did, however, both cautiously endorse the idea of a "bare bones" budget that would not include funding for any new projects or bonds to fund tasks like road construction. Both leaders, however, said such an austere budget would not be good for the state in the long run.