- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers met for nearly four hours on Friday but could not reach a compromise on a two-year state spending plan of more than $65 billion in state and federal money.

Lawmakers will take the Easter weekend off and return to the negotiating table on Monday. But they have to have a deal by midnight on Monday or else they could lose their ability to override any potential vetoes from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Some issues to be resolved:



Republican Gov. Matt Bevin proposed $650 million in spending cuts, reflecting a 9 percent cut for most state agencies. That includes all state constitutional officers, public colleges and universities and some K-12 education programs. The money saved would be spent on paying down the state’s public pension debt, estimated at more than $30 billion and growing. The Republican-controlled Senate supports the cuts, while the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives opposes most of them.



House Democrats want to make community college free for every high school graduate in Kentucky. They have proposed a “Work Ready” scholarship program modeled after a similar effort in Tennessee. Any student who graduates from a Kentucky high school, private school or home school program must apply for all available scholarships and financial aid. The state would cover whatever is left over. Students would have to keep a 2.0 grade point average, and they could only use the money for six semesters. Democrats say it would cost $20 million a year, but Republicans are skeptical. They worry the program would lead to an enrollment decline in the state’s four-year institutions.



Senate Republicans want Kentucky’s public colleges and universities to compete against each other for funding. Schools like the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville would be graded on how many students they graduate and what types of degrees those students earn. Schools would be awarded a higher score if they graduate more degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and health care. The school with the highest score in its tier would get 100 percent of its budget allocation. The loser would get less.



Senate Republicans want to use the budget to suspend Kentucky’s prevailing wage law. The law requires the state to pay construction workers higher wages on public projects. Republicans say the law unnecessarily drives up costs, while Democrats say it ensures the highest quality of work for public buildings, including public schools.

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