Sunday, March 9, 2003

Budget compromise includes eliminating runoff election



By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A proposed budget compromise reached Friday night includes more than money. If enacted, it also would change public policy by eliminating a runoff primary election for governor.

House and Senate conferees decided the money required for a primary - perhaps $6 million - would be better spent on education, Medicaid and human services, Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Jody Richards said.

The negotiated budget will be presented to the General Assembly on Monday, the leaders said.

"It might not be the ultimate decision of the House and Senate," Williams said in a news conference with Richards. "But the conferees at the time felt like the cost involved (in a runoff) warranted a close look."

If the legislature goes along, "that was the reason and for no political reason whatsoever," Williams said.

Kentucky reinstituted the gubernatorial runoff more than a decade ago, but it has never been triggered. Absent a change in the law, a runoff would be required if no candidate slate got at least 40 percent of the vote in the May 20 primary elections. There are four slates each on ballots for the Republican and Democratic nominations.

But county clerks, who are in charge of local elections, weighed in with their fears that the sheer logistics of an extra election five weeks after the regular primary would be unworkable.

"We do not have a history in Kentucky of having runoff elections," said Richards, who is one of the Democratic candidates for governor. "The clerks were very concerned about having ballots printed, about having people to serve as judges. . . . And they also were very concerned - we were all concerned - about in late June being able to get people to the polls."

As for the rest of the proposed budget, which would appropriate about $15 billion through fiscal 2004, Richards and Williams gave few insights and fewer specifics. They said they had scraped up more money for education, Medicaid, health services and "various infrastructure" projects than either chamber originally proposed.

Richards also said the budget bill would require school districts to give pay raises to teachers but also would include sufficient funding.

Richards and Williams also said the budget contains money with which to complete renovation of the Lexington Center, which includes Rupp Arena, plus authorization for bonds to finance expansion of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville.

The state put up $15 million for the $20 million Lexington Center project in 2000. Another $15 million was promised for 2002.

But state revenues plunged after work began, and Gov. Paul Patton omitted further funding from the budget he proposed in 2002. The project appears to be about half-finished.




TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Limited staffing impeding city fire inspections
N.Ky. officials: Beverly Hills lessons not forgotten
Seven stars over Cleves: Boyhood buddies in military
Schools prepare for disasters
Across Ohio, schools prepare for the worst
Potholes waiting to eat your car

ENQUIRER COLUMNS
PULFER: What makes Jim fly?
BRONSON: Bush won't flinch
SMITH-AMOS: Over-the-Rhine needs more than face lift

AROUND THE TRISTATE
High-60s weather just a memory today
Tristate A.M. Report
Obituary: Richard Zoellner was Muralist of New Deal
Obituary: William Dolle Jr. led machine firm
Good News: School's adults keep bargain

CINCINNATI-HAMILTON COUNTY
Slaying happens in front of crowd
Woman says she wasn't abducted
Food service seeks ballpark workers

OHIO
Bicentennial Moments: Anna's shaky past makes it quake capital
Bicentennial Notebook: Physician's contributions honored
Ohio eligible for $17.5 million to ready for terror
Laid-off engineer wins $7.8M in age-bias case
Ambulance heart monitors stolen
Taft announces process for filling high court seat

KENTUCKY
Canceled races cost Turfway $3 million
Big crowd expected for zoning hearing
Budget compromise includes eliminating runoff election
Jesus with tattoo? Artist explores his many facets
Teacher fired for criticism of blacks

INDIANA
Indiana crash kills woman