Local/Regional News
7:11 am
Thu April 12, 2012

Beshear Vetoes Portions Of Bare-Bones State Budget

FRANKFORT, Ky. --  Governor Steve Beshear used his line-item veto power Wednesday to delete some spending proposals that lawmakers added to a bare-bones state budget.

The second-term Democrat also removed a provision that required him to slash an additional $80 million from existing government programs. Lawmakers had earmarked portions of that funding for new initiatives, some of which also were stricken because Beshear said they would have added to a budget gap.

"As a result, I am vetoing several provisions of the budget which add new obligations, limit necessary flexibility, and reduce the ability to manage this budget," he said in a statement.

The governor's veto document didn't specify the programs affected, but referred instead to a hodgepodge of page numbers and lines that couldn't immediately be matched up to the spending plan approved by lawmakers in late March.

Budget Director Mary Lassiter said the vetoed earmarks included $200,000 for an actors' guild and $300,000 for a mystery writers' festival. She said the governor also removed language that lawmakers had inserted to restrict how $20 million that the attorney general's office will receive in a legal settlement could be spent.

Lawmakers who reconvene Thursday for the last day of a legislative session could attempt to override the vetoes. But legislative leaders who received the veto document late Wednesday were unsure of what had been stricken.

"The governor's budget veto message was drafted in an obscure way," said Lourdes Baez-Schrader, spokeswoman for Senate President David Williams. "Our office is in the process of conducting an analysis of the governor's objections to a bipartisan budget."

"We won't have any statement until we get a chance to review the vetoes," said Brian Wilkerson, spokesman for House Speaker Greg Stumbo. "We'll have more to say tomorrow."

The two-year, $19 billion budget approved by lawmakers on March 29 included no pay raises for the more than 30,000 government workers and also removed cost-of-living increases for some 200,000 retirees.

Beshear said the budget is without frills.

"This is the most difficult budget I have ever drafted, and it will also be a challenge to implement and manage over the next two years," he said in a statement.

Under Beshear's budget proposal, most state agencies would share in $286 million worth of cuts. He and lawmakers had been able to avoid sharp cuts to basic funding for public schools, prisons and the Medicaid program.

"Despite the budget's challenges, we are making key investments in our future," Beshear said. "My budget reduces social worker caseloads in the area of child abuse and neglect, funds colon cancer screenings for 4,000 uninsured Kentuckians, funds aggressive substance abuse treatment in Medicaid, and provides funding for an elder abuse registry to protect senior citizens from unscrupulous caretakers."