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State opening office in Pikeville to help startup companies

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT –The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is establishing an office on the University of Pikeville campus to provide assistance to startup companies in the Appalachian region.

“By adding the new office in Pikeville, we will be better able to serve the rapidly growing number of entrepreneurs and small businesses in Eastern Kentucky,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a release.

“Innovation is key to changing the economic landscape in Appalachia and we need to offer small businesses encouragement, guidance and a blueprint for success. I look forward to seeing positive results and hearing more success stories as a result of this new location.

The Pikeville office will operate in the university’s Community Technology Center and will serve nine counties, including Pike, Martin, Johnson, Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Perry, Breathitt and Magoffin.

“Small businesses are the backbone of a sustainable economy,” said UPIKE President James Hurley. “We are excited to participate in this public-private partnership to extend and offer opportunity for economic development. Eastern Kentucky is full of great entrepreneurial leaders and the innovation center provides the platform for ideas to be developed and cultivated.”

The opening of the new office comes weeks after Beshear, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, community leaders and local residents announced their action plan for eastern Kentucky’s Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Initiative.

Among the initiative’s main goals is to increase business recruitment and incubation in the region.

With the Pikeville location, the Kentucky Innovation Network provides business assistance to entrepreneurs from 13 locations across the state. Formed in 2002 by the Cabinet for Economic Development, the network serves all 120 counties throughout the state from offices in Ashland, Bowling Green, Covington, Elizabethtown, Lexington, London, Louisville, Morehead, Murray, Owensboro, Paducah and Richmond.

Last year, the Kentucky Innovation Network helped support 240 new companies create more than 1,000 jobs and assist businesses in raising more than $100 million in private investments.

The Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet for Economic Development oversees the Kentucky Innovation Network and other services, programs and initiatives to encourage small business growth. The goal of the office is to create and promote a strong culture of entrepreneurship statewide.

For more information on the Kentucky Innovation Network,visit www.kyinnovation.com.

–Jack Brammer

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen raises and spends more than $100K in first quarter

Jensen_barrBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Congressional candidate Elisabeth Jensen ended the first quarter of 2014 in about the same cash position she started after raising and spending more than $100,000 in the first three months of the year.

Jensen, the likely Democratic nominee to face off against Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, continues to lag Barr in fundraising.

Jensen raised more than $126,000 in the quarter, according to the Federal Election Commission website, but she spent almost $105,000 in the same period.

Jensen had just more than $268,000 in cash on hand. She finished 2013 with about $245,000 in cash after making a personal loan to her campaign of $100,000.

Barr raised more than $361,000 in the first quarter and had more than $1.1 million in cash to spend.

In the May 20 Democratic primary, Jensen faces retired Lexington engineer Geoff Young, a former Green Party member. Young said earlier this month that he has lent his campaign $50,000, but there was no fundraising report available for his campaign on the FEC website as of Wednesday morning.

Andy Barr’s first quarter fundraising leaves him with more than $1.1 million

Jensen_barrBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr raised more than $361,000 for his re-election bid in the first quarter of 2014, leaving him with more than $1.1 million in cash on hand at the start of spring, his campaign reported Monday.

Barr, R-Lexington, began the year with just more than $900,000 in cash.

During the first quarter, Barr raised more than $257,000 from individuals and about $104,000 from political action committees.

Elisabeth Jensen, the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Barr in November, has not yet released her first-quarter haul.

Jensen finished 2013 with about $245,000 in cash on hand after she loaned her campaign $100,000 and raised $100,000 in the fourth quarter.

Barr challenger runs radio ad praising health care law

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen of LexingtonBy Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Democratic congressional candidate Elisabeth Jensen embraces the federal health care law pushed by President Barack Obama and Gov. Steve Beshear in her campaign’s first radio ad.

Jensen, who is the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, released an ad Monday morning that praises Beshear for implementing a Kentucky version of the health care law and blasts Barr and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for threatening to repeal it.

“Thanks to Gov. Beshear, Kentucky Kynect provides health care to Kentuckians who had no insurance,” Jensen says in the ad. “But Barr, along with Mitch McConnell, voted to end Kynect and let insurance companies drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.”

The ad notes that Barr has voted to repeal the controversial health care law 19 times and charges that the congressman has taken $148,000 in contributions from insurance companies.

“I often say Kentucky moms like me get more done by noon than Congress gets done in a week,” Jensen says in the ad. “So when I learned Congressman Andy Barr voted 19 times to repeal health care reform, I was disappointed.”

Kentucky officials said last week that enrollment was surging in the state in the lead-up to the self-imposed sign-up deadline of Friday night.

As of Friday, officials said more than 400,000 people had signed up, with the majority of participants joining Medicaid as part of an expansion of the program ordered by Beshear.

Jensen’s campaign did not disclose how much money it was spending on the ad, which is scheduled to start running in Central Kentucky starting Tuesday.

In the Democratic primary, Jensen faces retired Lexington engineer Geoff Young, a former Green Party member. Young said earlier this month that he has loaned his campaign $50,000.

Click here to listen to the ad.

Mitch McConnell raises $2.4 million, Matt Bevin raises $1.1 million in first quarter of 2014

Matt Bevin, left, is challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell in the battle to be the GOP's nominee in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race.By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his best fundraising quarter of this election cycle, pulling in $2.4 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2014.

But McConnell is also spending heavily. His campaign will report $10.4 million in cash on hand, which is down more than $500,000 from the cash position McConnell started the year with.

The McConnell campaign stressed that the spending is not in response to a primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, noting that the majority of expenditures are for the fall campaign.

An ad McConnell’s campaign ran earlier this year featuring Paducah cancer survivor Robert Pierce ran statewide at a cost of more than $840,000.

“Team Mitch has invested early in ground-game infrastructure that will help deliver unprecedented voter contact in Kentucky,” the campaign said in a statement to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Additionally, last quarter, Team Mitch made their first major television expenditure with an ad that media guru Frank Luntz recently called the best of the cycle.”

Last pro-McConnell ad of $1.8 million buy focuses on coal, Obama

By Sam Youngman
syoungman@herald-leader.com

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition (KOC), a nonprofit group running ads promoting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is focusing the last ad of a $1.8 million buy on coal and President Barack Obama.

The group has already run two ads — one on veterans’ issues and one on the estate tax — as part of the three-week campaign.

Because the KOC is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, it is only permitted to run issue-oriented ads that do not advocate voting for or against a particular candidate.

The last ad to run begins with footage of Obama saying “so if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

The narrator says the president’s energy policies are “crushing our communities, threatening our way of life.”

McConnell, the ad says, is “fighting back to save Kentucky jobs.” It boasts of legislation the senator has proposed, the Saving Coal Jobs Act, saying the proposal “would make it tougher for Obama to block new coal mines so we can save good Kentucky jobs.”

Treasurer Hollenbach returns more than $100M in unclaimed property

State Treasurer Todd Hollnebach announces that his office has returned record $100 million of unclaimed property to rightful owners.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Treasurer Todd Hollenbach has returned more than $100 million in unclaimed property to its rightful owners in his six years in office.

That is more than all the state treasurers combined returned in the 60 years before his administration, he said at a Capitol news conference to celebrate his goal of surpassing $100 million in returned property.

He also announced a new goal of “120 in 120.” He plans to visit all 120 counties in Kentucky and return $120 million before his term as treasurer ends in 2015.

Each year, the state treasury collects million of dollars from property holders, such as banks and insurance companies, that must transfer assets of inactive accounts to the state.

In 2013, the state treasury collected a record $53 million in unclaimed property.

Hollenbach said his office holds about $104 million in total unclaimed property.

He attributed his office’s success in finding many owners through a volunteer-based program called “Treasure Finders.”

In it, Hollenbach works with local volunteers to establish a phone bank, review property listings and call residents to inform them of potential unclaimed property.

Claimants are then assisted in claiming their property from the treasury.

Money not returned goes to the state’s General Fund to pay for education and most other state programs as determined by the legislature.

“In effect, the Treasure Finders program benefits all Kentuckians, whether they have a claim or not,” Hollenbach said.

People who want to see if they have unclaimed cash or family valuables in the treasurer’s office can search a database at missingmoney.com.

They also can call the treasury’s unclaimed property office toll-free at 800-465-4722.

‘Comment’ will discuss ethics hearing; ‘KY Tonight’ will focus on 2014 General Assembly

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

The Legislative Ethics Commission’s hearing on former state Rep. John Arnold will be among the key topics discussed on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.

Joining host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV will be three journalists — Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Jonathan Meador of Kentucky Public Radio and Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journa.

The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.

On the Monday, April 14 edition of “Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2014 General Assembly.

Scheduled guests are Dave Adkisson, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates; Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Viewers with questions and comments may send email to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter to @BillKETor on KET’s Facebook page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

“Kentucky Tonight” programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at KET.org/kytonight.

“Kentucky Tonight” is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.

–Jack Brammer

Beshear signs marijuana oil, tax breaks and e-cigarette bills into law

By Jack Brammer

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law several major bills Thursday, including limited use of marijuana oil for people with seizures, tax breaks for a proposed 21c Museum Hotel in Lexington and the state’s bourbon and beer industries and a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Beshear has not yet vetoed any legislation sent to him by this year’s General Assembly. Lawmakers are to return to Frankfort on Monday after a two-week recess to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. The legislative session cannot run any longer than April 15.

Beshear put his signature Thursday on Senate Bill 124, which allows the hospitals at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to provide oil derived from marijuana and hemp to children who suffer from certain severe seizures. The benefits also could apply to adults. The substance would be allowed when recommended by doctors practicing at the research hospitals. The bill also would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil.

The measure was one of the most emotional discussed in this year’s legislative session. Several parents with children who suffer with seizures lobbied for it.

The legislation marks the first time Kentucky has used any extract from marijuana plants for medicinal purposes.

Tax receipts jump in March for state General Fund and Road Fund

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

FRANKFORT — Revenue for the state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, and the Road Fund showed growth in March, the state budget director’s office reported Thursday.

Receipts for the General Fund in March increased 2.4 percent compared to March of last year, an increase of $17.7 million. Total revenues for the month were $753.5 million, compared to $735.8 million in March 2013.

Receipts have grown 1.5 percent for the first nine months of fiscal year 2014, which began last July 1.

The official revenue estimate calls for 2.1 percent revenue growth for the entire fiscal year, which ends June 30. To meet the estimate, receipts must grow 3.9 percent over the last three months of this fiscal year.

State budget director Jane Driskell noted that General Fund revenues have rebounded in recent months.

“After growing 3.3 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year, General Fund receipts declined 0.7 percent in the second quarter and increased 2.1 percent in the third quarter,” Driskell said. “We remain confident that the official estimate is within reach but revenues in excess of the official projection are becoming less likel.”

For March, sales and use tax receipts increased 5.6 percent and have grown 3.1 percent year-to-date.

Corporation income tax receipts grew 49.1 percent and have increased 17.8 percent for the year.

Individual income tax collections grew 2.7 percent in March, while property tax collections decreased 4.9 percent and cigarette tax receipts fell 2.9 percent.

Coal severance tax receipts declined 7 percent in March and have decreased 14.9 percent through the first nine months of this fiscal year.

Road Fund receipts jumped 19.9 percent in March with collections of $137.1 million. That is $22.8 million more than last March.

The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for an increase in revenues of 6.1 percent for the fiscal year. Based on year-to-date tax collections, revenues must increase 2.7 percent for the remainder of this fiscal year to meet the estimate.

–Jack Brammer