The Kentucky Senate has now passed its version of a two year $20 billion budget. The lengthy document will end up in a House-Senate Conference Committee where a key House leader expects successful passage this session.
The House and Senate budgets differ in a number of areas. The senate plan restores funding for higher education, but cuts out most projects, including those on university campuses. Some $65 million for Eastern Kentucky University's phase two science building is not in the senate-approved budget. Richmond Senator Jared Carpenter hopes to see it back in the final negotiated budget. "We're still gonna work hard for it. I've talked to President Benson, told him, I want him to continue working hard for it, that I'm not giving up on it. Representative Smart isn't either. We're gonna do all we can to help see if we can figure out a way to help that project be funded," said Carpenter. The Senate budget also does not include borrowing $65 million for the Rupp Arena/Convention Center project. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said he's "unshakably optimistic" about money for Rupp being restored. Following the vote, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said his chamber's position is there will be more projects in the final budget product or none at all. The speaker does believe agreement this session can be reached, saying "There's enough room in there we got a brief briefing on it." He added, "I think there's enough room in there to negotiate what would be a reasonable compromise." The Senate budget greatly reduces the debt level and puts money in for 24 state police positions in which retired officers are employed. Minority floor leader R.J. Palmer expressed worries over flexibility on a teacher pay raise. He believes it should be mandated. The Winchester lawmaker also takes issue with language to keep universities from borrowing on their own for certain projects. The overall level of debt in the Senate budget is far below that contained in the House spending plan. The Senate did not pass the revenue plan to pay for the $20 billion budget. That is expected to happen Tuesday or Wednesday.