State lawmakers have once again called off budget negotiations, hoping to hammer out a compromise on Thursday.
Lawmakers met in small groups privately on Wednesday afternoon, but they provided no indication that they were any closer to an agreement by the end of the day.
Sen. Chris McDaniel, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered no details of which parts of the budget lawmakers still couldn’t agree on.
“We have some tentative frameworks established, and I think everyone will keep working hard towards a final product,” he said.
The last time lawmakers publicly discussed budget specifics, they clashed over how to start fixing the state’s ailing pension systems and whether to cut K-12 and higher education funding.
Leaders from the Democratic-led House want to use surplus money from the Employee Health Insurance Trust Fund to shield education from cuts while shoring up the pension systems.
Senate Republican leaders want to use the trust fund surplus to make larger pension contributions and set aside more money for a “permanent fund” that would be dedicated to future pension expenses.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Matt Bevin said higher education cuts are “not negotiable.”
“The universities in this state are going to have cuts. That is a fact. That is not negotiable. They will participate. The degree to which, that is what’s on the table. But the reality is, there will be participation on the part of everyone in the commonwealth,” he said, according to WDRB.
Legislative leaders are scheduled to return to the table on Thursday morning at 9 a.m.
Under the current plan, lawmakers would have to come to an agreement sometime Thursday to prepare a budget in time for full House and Senate votes on Friday. If that deadline is broken, they might use their last legislative day on Saturday before the governor’s mandatory week-and-a-half-long veto period begins.
Lawmakers had been hoping to keep that day to override any possible vetoes Bevin makes to the budget or other bills.