General Assembly Sets Stage For Budget Talks, Presses Pause On Beshear's Virus Relief Package

Jan 11, 2021

The Kentucky General Assembly is aiming to pass a placeholder budget this week to allow lawmakers time to hash out a final product over their January break. But some Democrats are uneasy with the strategy.

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, meets with the media after presenting budget bills in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
Credit LRC Public Information

The House and Senate are moving swiftly to pass what are essentially repeats of last year's one-year budget, promising that the real budget proposal will take shape by early February.

But with more than $600 million in unexpected funds to work with, Democrats had hoped to see more movement on Gov. Andy Beshear's accompanying COVID-19 relief package, which includes $220 million in direct aid for small business. For now, those dollars are being deposited in the state's rainy day fund.

"Guys, this is a rainy day," Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton told colleagues. "This is why we have this fund. This is the time when so many people are in need across our commonwealth."

Whether Beshear's proposals gain any traction remains to be seen in the coming weeks.

"So I'm going to trust in the process and hope that that's what we see by the time we actually get to the final version of this thing," Hatton added.

Republican leaders have been hesitant to sign off on the governor's plan for the hundreds of millions in mostly federal money, arguing the infusion of CARES Act dollars into the state economy has created an overly rosy picture of where the state stands financially.