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Lawmakers considering water and sewer projects


Kentucky lawmakers, with hours remaining in their 2008 legislative session, were considering a plan authorizing more than $225 million worth of water and sewer projects throughout the state.

House and Senate leaders had met periodically throughout the day Tuesday, as a midnight deadline swiftly approached. Lawmakers also had a tentative agreement on a plan to overhaul the state’s pension system and add millions of dollars worth of road projects, House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said.

The Senate had approved a plan negotiated behind closed doors by House and Senate legislators that would authorize water and sewer projects throughout the state. The projects come as other areas of state government face drastic funding cuts during the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1.

Kentucky is facing a $900 million revenue shortfall over the next two years, economic forecasters have projected. That figure is in addition to a $434 million shortfall in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Legislators approved a twoyear $19 billion state spending plan earlier this month. As part of an agreement to approve the budget, legislators had agreed to authorize about $150 million in water and sewer projects. That tally increased $75 million, under the proposal pending before the legislature.

“We carefully evaluated these based on the size and population of the counties,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Dan Kelly, RSpringfield, said. “It wasn’t an exact science … not everybody got exactly what they wanted.”

The bill would authorize an additional $50 million in water and sewer projects for non-coal producing counties; and an extra $25 million for coal-producing counties.

During a day filled with sporadic flurries of legislative activity, a Senate panel also approved tax incentives aimed at luring large motion picture productions to Kentucky. It was uncertain whether the proposal would clear both chambers before the stroke of midnight.

The panel also cleared tax credits aimed at helping locally owned exposition centers throughout the state, such as one in Pike County, that have struggled with cash flow.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he had not seen the legislation, but that he go through every measure the legislature passed on its final day “with a fine-tooth comb.”

“We will obviously take a very close look at whatever passes,” Beshear said. “We’ve got to be very careful in these tight economic times that we don’t overdo ourselves in terms of debt.”

Lawmakers also had until the end of the day to consider any of Beshear’s budgetary vetoes.

Meanwhile, Richards said lawmakers had agreed in principle on a plan that would overhaul the state’s pension system. Lawmakers have said that without changes, the state retirement system faces financial jeopardy in future years.

“We have agreed in principle, but we haven’t seen the bill,” Richards said. “So we reserve the right to see what’s in the bill.”

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