FRANKFORT — State Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, expressed disappointment Thursday over House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comments this week that the state should not provide tax incentives for a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County.
Linder, who represents Grant, Gallatin and Owen counties in the House’s 61st District, said in a news release that Stumbo’s comments “appear to tell those who want to bring economic opportunity to the commonwealth that Kentucky is closed for business, which only serves to further drive other businesses out of our state.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that Grant County needs more economic development but that the use of tax incentives for the park is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for separation of church and state.
He predicted that the incentives will be challenged in court and the state would lose.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Authority has given its preliminary approval for as much as $18.25 million in tax incentives for the $73 million first phase of the biblical theme park. It is to consider final approval after a feasibility study is conducted.
The park is to open in two years and will feature a wooden ark 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 55 feet high. It is affiliated with Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum in Boone County. The museum follows a literal interpretation of the Bible and the belief, contrary to science, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Linder said the proposed Ark Encounter theme park is a tourism-based economic development project that qualifies to receive tax incentives from the state. He said millions of dollars have already been allotted for highway improvements in the area of the proposed theme park’s location
“While Kentucky continues to lose jobs to places like Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas, Speaker Stumbo chooses to attack an economic development project in my community by encouraging lawsuits on tax incentives,” Linder said.
Linder said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and others are supporting the project “because they understand the huge economic benefits it can bring to the Commonwealth, yet Speaker Stumbo would rather stir up issues instead of considering the opportunities this project will provide to Kentucky families.”
Linder called Stumbo’s comments about the park and religion disingenuous.
“While the Speaker has an issue with a religious theme park receiving tax incentives to provide jobs, he apparently has no problem occupying a chair in the House chambers that has, in large letters, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ behind it,” he said.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear, by executive order Wednesday, created the Council for Community Recovery and Resiliency or CCRR, a new group that will provide support, leadership and guidance to Kentucky communities drastically impacted by natural disasters.
“Kentuckians have faced an unparalleled number of natural disasters in the past several years – from devastating storms and tornadoes, to dilapidating droughts, to extreme snow, ice and flooding,” Beshear said in a release.
“Through coping with these terrible disasters, Kentucky has developed strong and effective response systems and implemented quality preparedness measures across the state. This new council is another way for Kentucky to stay ahead of the game in natural disaster response.”
The council will be a main resource for communities before, during and after they are affected by disasters – helping them employ the best our state can offer in preparedness, response and recovery, Beshear said.
It also is to serve as an advisory and resource board for Kentucky communities, providing them with technical and financial expertise in preparing and responding to natural disasters.
The group is to be attached to the Department for Local Government and include representatives from several state agencies, including Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Cabinet for Economic Development, Division of Emergency Management, Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Association of Counties, Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky County Judge-Executive Association, Kentucky Association of Area Development District Directors and Kentucky Office of Homeland Security.
During Beshear’s administration, Kentucky has had 11 federally declared natural disasters that have caused deaths, injuries and extreme financial loss and destruction to communities across the state.
Gov. Steve Beshear’s handling of the state budget shortfall will be one of the topics on this weekend’s “Comment on Kentucky,” a public affairs show of the Kentucky Educational Television network.
Joining interim host Bill Bryant of Lexington’s WKYT-TV to discuss recent news in Kentucky will be three journalists — Tom Loftus of The Courier-Journal, Phillip Bailey of WFPL in Louisville and Nick Storm of cn|2 in Louisville.
The show airs live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.
On the Monday, July 21 edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. p.m. on KET and at KET.org/live, host Renee Shaw (substituting for Bill Goodman) and guests will discuss jobs and the economy.
Scheduled guests are John Garen, economics professor at the University of Kentucky; Chris Phillips, economics professor at Somerset Community College; Tom Dupree, member of the board of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions; and Anna Baumann, research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to email@example.com or use the message form at KET.org/kytonight.
Viewers may also submit questions on Twitter @ReneeKET or on KET’s Facebook page, facebook.com/KET. 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.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT —Gov. Steve Beshear has made appointments to the Kentucky Board of Education, Kentucky Commission on Women and the Kentucky Center for the Arts Board.
To the state education board, Beshear has appointed Shelbyville attorney Samuel D. Hinkle IV and retired educator Debra L. Cook of Corbin.
Hinkle replaces Judith H. Gibbons, whose term has expired. His term will run through April 14, 2018. Cook replaces Brigitte B. Ramsey, who has resigned. She will serve for the remainder of Ramsey’s term, which ends April 14, 2016.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Andy Beshear, a Democratic candidate for attorney general in 2015 and the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, reported Thursday that his campaign has nearly $1.1 million cash on hand, after raising $160,000 in the last three months.
Beshear, a Louisville attorney with Stites and Harbison, has raised more than $1.26 million total for his campaign. He started it last November.
The candidate also announced the endorsements of five prominent Democrats for his campaign – former Attorney Generals David Armstrong and Chris Gorman, state Auditor Adam Edelen, former state Auditor Crit Luallen and state House Speaker and former Attorney General Greg Stumbo.
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear reappointed six members of the 12-member Kentucky Board of Education Tuesday.
Two other appointments are up but he will announce them at a later date, said Beshear spokesman Terry Sebastian.
The reappointments will serve through April 14, 2018.
They are Jonathan V. Parrent of Princeton, William L. Twyman of Cave City, Roger Lee Marcum of Bardstown, Mary Gwen Wheeler of Louisville, Nawanna B. Privett of Lexington and Grayson R. Boyd of Williamsport.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Kentucky will reap an extra $57.2 million over the next three years from settling litigation involving the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between states and tobacco companies, Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway announced Thursday.
In a joint news conference in the Capitol, Beshear said the end of the legal dispute between 23 states, including Kentucky, and tobacco manufacturers over 10 years of disputed claims and litigation is “a victory not only for Kentucky farmers, but also for critical health care and childhood services.”
Conway said the settlement his office worked on “restores certainty to Kentucky’s annual payments” from the 1998 agreement.
“Under the terms of the settlement, we avoid the possibility of costly litigation and the potential loss of the entire annual Master Settlement Agreement payment.”
Money from the settlement agreement already is designated for farm projects and health issues like lung cancer research.
Beshear acknowledged that the extra money for the state will not have an impact on a budget shortfall Kentucky expected at the end of this fiscal year on June 30.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — State government is raking in less tax revenue than expected, making a budget shortfall for the fiscal year that ends June 30 “inevitable,” state budget director Jane Driskell warned Tuesday.
Driskell said the state’s General Fund which pays for most state programs, and the Road Fund, which pays for road work, would fall short of expectations. She said the magnitude of the shortfall will not be known until early July, but that it would be “significantly larger” than $28 million.
“We are preparing for the year-end close out, directing state agencies to closely monitor all activities and reviewing all potential options to address the shortfall;” she said.
Driskell reported Tuesday that May’s receipts for the General Fund fell 2.1 percent compared to May 2013. Total revenue for the month was $777.3 million, compared to $793.9 million during May 2013.
General Fund receipts grew 1.1 percent during the first eleven months of the fiscal year, but the enacted budget calls for 2.2 percent revenue growth for the entire fiscal year.
To meet the official revenue estimate, receipts must increase 11.7 percent over the final month of the fiscal year.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear told a group of educators and students Tuesday that this year’s legislative session made strides in education “but we have a long way to go.”
At a reception in the Capitol put on by several education organizations called Kentucky Education Action Team to thank Beshear and the 2014 General Assembly, Beshear said he is thankful that lawmakers “overcame a tough budget and made significant investments in our schools and children.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear and his wife, Jane, boosted their joint gross income by $85,111 last year, bringing it to $337,276, according to the 2013 state and federal income tax returns they released Thursday.
Their income for 2013 included $134,828 from Beshear’s salary as governor, $55,502 from dividends with Charles Schwab & Co. and Hilliard Lyons, $108,121 from capital gains, and $45,532 from Social Security.
The couple reported $53,389 in total itemized deductions. They gave $21,641 to charities.
The Beshears had a total federal tax liability of $53,904. After subtracting tax withholding of $31,832, the couple paid the federal government $22,072 with their tax return.
The Beshears have released their tax returns each year that he has been governor.
Beshear at first refused to disclose his income tax returns during his 2007 race for governor. He later released a list of his assets and liabilities. He then decided to make public his income tax returns.