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Q&A about the Kentucky state budget (or lack of one)

April 15, 2010

John Cheves with the Lexington Herald-Leader has a good question and answer piece today about what happens if by midnight tonight the Kentucky General Assembly hasn’t approved a budget.

That’s definitely the way it’s heading, so it’s good to bone up on what’s to come without a budget.

From today’s piece by Cheves

Question: What happens if the legislature doesn’t pass a state budget?

Answer: The current executive branch budget — which pays for most of state government — ends June 30. After that, Gov. Steve Beshear is not authorized to make most of the expenditures that keep the state running.

Q: What is the governor authorized to do without a budget?

A: He’ll have to shut down much of the state government, but nobody is sure about many important details.

After the legislature failed to pass budgets in 2002 and 2004, governors Paul Patton and Ernie Fletcher kept the state running through their own informal spending plans.

But the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that governors can’t spend money without a budget unless it’s for one of the few items required to be funded by the Kentucky Constitution or statutes, such as elementary and secondary schools, prisons, a militia and “the safekeeping of public arms, military records, relics and banners.” By law, salaries must be paid to legislators and the governor and other statewide constitutional officers.

The governor also may spend money to obey federal government mandates, such as mining regulation and environmental protection, the court ruled. But he does not have “emergency powers” to appropriate money from the state treasury on his own for what he considers “essential services,” it said.

Cheves goes on to ask and answer a number of other questions, but here’s one that’s left out – How are lawmakers going to explain themselves to their constituents come tomorrow after spending 60 working days without completing their number one job?

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