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Kentucky House passes four state budget bills which go to Senate; hope to complete budget this month

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Kentucky House passed four of the five state budget bills on Monday, along with a measure to reorganize the General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee.

Ordinarily, lawmakers approve a two-year budget during their sessions in even-numbered years.  But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty about how it would affect state finances, the General Assembly only passed a one-year state spending plan in 2020, leaving lawmakers to act on the second year in the 2021 session.

File photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today

The four budget bills cover the executive, legislative and judicial branch budgets, plus the transportation budget.

The fifth one, which deals with COVID-19 related funding for state agencies, eligible small businesses, non-profits and others was pulled by House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, after he became aware of problems in the bill.

When presenting the four bills on the floor, Petrie, who is the sponsor of the measures, said despite the influx of one-time federal dollars due to the pandemic, they must be careful when enacting the budget legislation.

“We have to understand that the ground we stand on may appear firm at times,” he said. “But when you look underneath the top thin layer, there may be further considerations that require prudent, careful analysis of where we are, before we spend one-time money that’s available.”

Petrie also emphasized the bills they pass would only be a continuation spending plan, until a House-Senate conference committee puts together the final versions to be acted upon by both chambers and then presented to the Governor.

Several House Democrats urged their colleagues to make sure the version hammered out by the conference committee keeps in such proposals by Gov. Andy Beshear as education funding, raises for school employees, and other items.

Legislative leaders have said they hope to complete the budget bill next month.

The other measure passed by the House Monday would change the name of the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee to the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee.

Other provisions include:

• Providing that information and working papers of the committee are exempt from open records.
• Allow the committee to study a matter without regard to jurisdiction of another statutory or standing committee.
• Provide for issuance of subpoenas and establish a penalty not to exceed $100 per day and a maximum of $1,000 for any person who fails to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee.
• Allow the committee to report any matter under its study to law enforcement, the State Auditor, or any other state official having jurisdiction over the matter under investigation and require a report.

All five bills now head to the Senate.

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