Kentucky Politics

Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a continuation budget as they head into a three-week long break during this year’s legislative session, though the spending plan will likely change.

The budget bill continues state spending at current levels, but legislators say it’s a “placeholder” and ultimately the final budget will be hammered out in the coming months.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican from Latonia and chair of the budget committee, said the unusual process is due to the shorter-than-usual legislative session.

“This is merely a continuation, but with the time constraints upon us, it’s important to go ahead and work ourselves to what we believe to be a free conference committee,” McDaniel said.

A conference committee takes place when both the House and Senate have passed the same bill, but haven’t arrived at a final agreement on how the legislation should look.

The committee is made up of the leaders from both parties in each legislative chamber, and generally takes place during every budget writing year.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville and minority leader, said he hopes that the final version of the budget will go beyond partisan rifts.

“I hope we discuss how to help the people and the small businesses who are hurting. I hope we talk about some of the affordable child care issues we’ve seen. The disparities in health and education outcomes in different communities. The need for criminal justice reform,” McGarvey said.

Though lawmakers usually pass a budget every two years, they only passed a one-year budget last year amid financial uncertainty at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

And now they have to pass another one-year budget during a 30-working day legislative session, even though budgets are normally written during 60 day sessions.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said that leaders of the Republican-led legislature will work with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear during the process.

“As critical as I have been of the governor, I compliment him on the way we proceeded last year and the dialogue we’ve had this year,” Stivers said.

The legislature will return for regular business on February 2.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.