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Will coronavirus impact Kentucky's budget?

Posted at 3:07 PM, Mar 24, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the coronavirus takes a toll on Kentucky's economy and shrinks tax collections, some state lawmakers are worried about creating a new budget.

"We know we are going to go into a downturn in our economy," said Senate President Robert Stivers during Monday's Budget Conference Committee Meeting.

Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne echoed the concern.

"These are certainly times that will challenge us. They will require us to be creative," said Osborne. "They are times that will - in some cases - require us to be reactive."

This is a different tone than was used less than three weeks ago. On March 6, when the Kentucky House passed its version of the budget, most lawmakers were happy with it.

"The fact that there are no dramatic cuts is significant," said Rep. Kelly Flood, who represents part of Lexington. "I've been here 11 years now and all we have done, practically to date, is cut."

However, a few hours after that happened, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced the state's first positive coronavirus case.

Now, budget talks have shifted. Some lawmakers worry because the numbers they are using to set the budget were projected before the coronavirus. So, they're concerned that could cause problems down the line, especially if the state's revenue is lower.

"We have a huge service economy that's based on social interaction - and the attempt to slow (the virus) is based on social distancing," said Stivers. "So it is clear to me that the numbers we have before us - to budget to - will not be as high, or even as close to as high, and we may not even hit this year's projections based on the circumstances we are currently in."

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Frankfort on Thursday to continue work on the budget.