The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - The political heat around the budget debate is increasing.
Senate Republicans, who Thursday night were saying there was no point in taking part in budget talks until Gov. Paul Patton and the House made their own proposals, changed their tune Friday morning. Committee meetings will begin Tuesday and House Speaker Jody Richards said it is because the public is tired of partisan bickering.
Also Friday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Jackson said Mr. Patton should resign because he is "not fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities that require him to produce a budget."
Republican leader Dan Kelly of Springfield said the Senate was moved to action because Mr. Patton did not make clear his spending proposals Thursday during his State of the Commonwealth address.
House Speaker Jody Richards said Republicans are feeling the heat to get off the sidelines and start negotiating a budget.
Mr. Patton's budget responsibilities this year have become part of the debate. There is a statutory requirement that the governor provide his budget recommendations to the Legislature, but that makes reference only to General Assembly sessions in even-numbered years and Mr. Patton produced his own budget plan in 2002. The constitution makes no mention of a governor's role in the budget, except to administer the government.
The constitution makes clear the Legislature has to appropriate money, but it failed to create a budget in two sessions last year. With the fiscal year that started July 1, Mr. Patton has been operating state government on a spending plan he put in place by executive order.
Senate President David Williams has challenged Mr. Patton's authority to act without a budget, but that lawsuit has been bogged down in the courts.
Ms. Jackson, in a telephone interview, said she was not claiming that Mr. Patton was required by the constitution to produce a new budget bill.
Rather, it requires him to carry out the laws of the Legislature, she said.
One of those laws requires the governor to propose solutions if the state experiences more than a 5 percent financial shortfall, Ms. Jackson said. "All he has said is, `General Assembly, you do it,'" Ms. Jackson said.
In response, Mr. Patton's office released a statement that said Mr. Patton "continues to live up fully to his obligations under the Constitution."
The statement also said a copy of the last proposed budget and Patton's spending plan were being sent to Ms. Jackson. "We welcome her recommendations on how to cut out $500 million in services," the statement said.
The administration and legislative Republicans have also been throwing budget grenades at one another.
Republicans have been saying Mr. Patton should have done more to get spending under control and bringing up specific examples about hiring and spending that they say were out of line.
Mr. Williams has been critical of the Patton administration for directing that $1.7 million in emergency funds be directed to make up a shortfall in a proposed convention center in Pikeville, which is Mr. Patton's hometown.
Mr. Patton's office Friday released a list of other construction projects that have had shortfalls financed from the emergency fund, including two in Mr. Williams' own district at the Dale Hollow State Park totaling $1.4 million,
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