Thursday, June 3, 2004

Fletcher wants suit suspended


Spending powers of governor challenged

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's attorney Wednesday asked a judge to suspend a suit by the attorney general on whether the governor can spend state money without an enacted budget.

The suit, filed last week, was premature because the current executive branch budget does not expire until June 30, the administration claims in papers filed in Franklin County Circuit Court.

The General Assembly adjourned April 13 without passing a budget. Fletcher, a Republican, has been preparing an "executive spending plan" with which he would run state government in the interim.

Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, sued to ask the circuit court to determine the extent of Fletcher's spending powers.

Budget negotiations between the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House collapsed in April over Fletcher's request for a "revenue neutral" overhauling of the tax code - changes to raise some taxes and lower others to avoid any net increase.

The Senate incorporated Fletcher's tax plan in its version of the budget. The House refused to consider it.

Senate President David Williams said he agreed Stumbo's suit should be set aside because it is "completely hypothetical" at this point.

That may not be the case much longer. Fletcher has said he will not call the legislature back for a budget until the two sides have an agreement. Four weeks remained in the fiscal year Wednesday, and there was no sign either side had budged.

Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden scheduled a hearing June 9 on Fletcher's suspension motion.




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