Thursday, July 1, 2004

Judge approves Fletcher's plan

State can spend at previous level

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A judge ruled Wednesday that Gov. Ernie Fletcher could run state government under his own spending plan since the General Assembly failed to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins today.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden said government could continue "at the last level the legislature approved ... in its last, regularly approved budget," which was passed last year.

Crittenden said that meant Fletcher could not undertake building projects or new programs not previously authorized and funded by the General Assembly. But neither would state government grind to a halt.

"I don't believe the legislative branch can destroy the government of the commonwealth by inaction," Crittenden said in a hearing. "The question is in the details of what the governor can be authorized to do."

Fletcher on Monday issued a "public services continuation plan" to run through Sept. 30 - the end of the first quarter of the fiscal year.

Crittenden said questions that would have to be litigated included whether state government and school employees would have to be given 5 percent pay raises, as specified in a statute. Fletcher's plan would give 2 percent raises.

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