FRANKFORT — Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.
A conference committee of leaders from both parties and chambers resumed meeting on the budget Friday morning around 10:20. They continued to compare differences, line-by-line, in the competing budgets passed by each chamber.
When it came to discussing money for spouse abuse shelters and cancer screenings, Democratic Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said she couldn’t understand why the Senate might want to reduce funding for those.
Senate Budget Chair Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said no one wanted to reduce funding for those services but the Senate believes insurance can cover some of those costs.
“We’re on TV here, and we’re having a debate over whether we’ll have cancer screenings for women,” Overly said. “That’s unconscionable.”
“I disagree with that,” Leeper responded. “We’re having a debate on the best use of taxpayers’ money.”
Republicans also seemed to suggest Democrats wanted to spend the money in the districts of their members. House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, called the suggestion “malarkey.”
“Now, do y’all want to get a budget or not?” Clark asked.
Leeper responded that “with all due respect,” the Senate budget did not include specific spending decisions in its members’ districts, and again said it is appropriate for budget negotiators to look for the most efficient use of public money.
“Well, I’ve got a heart,” Clark responded. Leeper took offense, but before the discussion could continue, several members of the committee suggested the meeting adjourn for lunch and the afternoon sessions of the two chambers.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he expects budget negotiations to continue into next week.