Despite billions in federal rescue money en route to Kentucky, Monday lawmakers approved a budget similar to last year's no-frills spending plan.
It's being called a one-year "continuation" budget, buying time for further debate on when and how the state should divvy up the massive $2.4 billion coming from the federal American Rescue Plan. The budget bill says the governor will need the approval of the General Assembly to begin spending the stimulus dollars.
"It is merely a statement of legislative branch prerogative that we authorize those," Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel said, appearing optimistic that the governor and lawmakers can find common ground. "I think the time is still here that we can make these productive conversations move forward and appropriately invest in the commonwealth."
Meanwhile, the Senate's top Democrat, Morgan McGarvey, said the budget okayed this week must be a work-in-progress.
"This cannot be the final budget that comes out of this legislature," the Louisville senator announced. "We will not have done what we needed to do as an institution, as legislators, as people, to help move our state ahead."
McGarvey said either a second round of budget talks this session or during a special session will be necessary to direct the stimulus funds where they're most needed while freeing up dollars elsewhere in the budget for priorities like increases in per-pupil spending, expanded Medicaid options, or universal pre-K.
Conversations between the governor and legislative leaders are ongoing, with Gov. Beshear touting a plan he says could generate 30,000 jobs in the commonwealth.