By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Crit Luallen, in her first public speech as Kentucky’s 56th lieutenant governor, told several hundred people in the Capitol Rotunda Friday that she is ready to help Gov. Steve Beshear with his “continuing efforts to build a Kentucky poised for a prosperous future.”
Luallen, who has served with six other Kentucky governors in high positions and was elected twice as state auditor, said the day was not one for laying out a new agenda but “to celebrate all that is right and good about our state’s past and its hope for the future.”
Luallen particiapted in a publc-swearing in ceremony that attracted various state officials like Attorney General Jack Conway, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Senate President Robert Stivers and other well-wishers.
Beshear named Luallen to be the state’s No. 2 public official to replace Jerry Abramson, who departed to take a job with the White House to help local officials throughout the country.
In his remarks at Friday’s public ceremony, Beshear said Luallen will help his administration in improving access to health care and creating jobs.
Luallen called on several family members and friends to participate in the ceremony.
Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart, who went to school with Luallen, served as moderator.
Catarine Hancock, Luallen’s great niece and a sophomore at Lexington’s Lafayette High School, sang the National Anthem.
The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church in Woodford County, gave the invocation and Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, introduced Luallen.
Franklin Circuit Court Judger Philip Shepherd, administered the public oath of office as Luallen’s husband, Lynn Luallen, held the Bible upon which she put her hand. A private swearing-in ceremony was held Thursday at the home of former Chief Justice John Palmore and Carol Palmore.
Centre College President John Roush provided the closing remarks and Colmon Elridge, executive assistant in the governor’s office, sang “My Old Kentucky Home.”
The Governor’s School for the Arts Alumni offered the musical prelude for the ceremony that lasted about an hour.
A public reception was held in the Governor’s Mansion after the ceremony. Music there was provided by the Centre College Kentucky Ensemble.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — After four months of anemic growth, Kentucky’s General Fund revenue increased 4.6 percent in October compared to a year ago, State Budget Director Jane Driskell announced Monday.
Total revenue for the month was $755.7 million, compared to $722.5 million during October 2013.
Receipts have increased 1.9 percent for the first four months of the fiscal year, and need to grow 4.4 percent over the final eight months of this month to achieve the official revenue estimate of $9.8 million.
There is cause for concern but “no reason at this point to panic,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “We will just be carefully monitoring the situation.”
The General Fund, which pays for most state programs, had a solid month after a first quarter in which receipts grew only 1.1 percent, Driskell said.
“October was clearly a strong month of revenue growth as nominal collections grew $33.2 million, an amount higher than the nominal growth in the entire first quarter of fiscal year 2015,” she said.
The main contributions to the healthy growth in October were the individual income tax and sales taxes, which grew 4.8 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively, while corporate and property receipts continued to underperform.
Road Fund receipts for October totaled $126.7 million, a 0.3 percent decrease. They can decline 2 percent over the next eight months and still meet the official yearly estimate of $1.54 billion.
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2014/11/10/3531403/state-revenue-perks-up-in-october.html?sp=/99/322/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy
Motor vehicle usage tax receipts fell 4.3 percent for the month and have declined 1.4 percent so far this year. Motor fuels taxes increased 0.8 percent in October and have grown 1.4 percent for the year.
Driskell said October’s Road Fund performance is not unexpected.
“Road Fund collections continue to be weak, as we anticipated. Growth in motor fuels tax collections is limited by a decline in demand,” she said.
“Motor vehicle usage tax receipts have been hampered by the impact of recent legislation which provides for a new car trade-in. It is anticipated that the credit will reduce collections by $34 million in the current fiscal year.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear appointed state official Ambrose Wilson IV of Midway Thursday to be secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet.
The cabinet oversees a variety of agencies, ranging from financial institutions and racing to charitable gaming.
Wilson, whose appointment takes effect Nov. 7, takes over the position from Larry Bond, Beshear’s chief of staff, who has served as acting secretary since May when Robert Vance of Maysville resigned.
“Ambrose’s experience in human resources and management will be an invaluable asset to the cabinet,” Beshear said in a statement.
“In addition, he brings a background in both public and private sectors that will well serve the critical role that Public Protection plays in monitoring and regulating a number of activities that impact nearly every Kentuckian, from the financial soundness of our state chartered banks and investment companies to reviewing building permits and fire safety inspections.”
Wilson has 28 years of human resources experience. Since 2012, he has been commissioner of the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction. He previously was deputy commissioner of the Department of Financial Institutions. He also has held office management and human resource positions within the legal, manufacturing and financial sectors.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my six years of service in the Public Protection Cabinet with the Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction,” Wilson said. “I am grateful to Gov. Beshear for this new opportunity to lead a team of 600 employees dedicated to public protection and public service.”
Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Kentucky.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s campaign for governor raised $397,539 in the last three months, bringing his total fundraising to about $1.15 million since entering the Democratic primary earlier this year.
Conway’s campaign also reported late Monday that it had about $1 million on hand.
“Great results for two straight reporting periods show the strength of our campaign and that we are uniting Democrats behind our ticket for the 2015 governor’s race,” Conway said in a statement.
Conway said he and his running, state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, “remain focused on the Kentucky House races and Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign for U.S. Senate” this fall.
He added: “Sannie and I will begin the process of building out our campaign after the November elections.”
Conway’s campaign noted that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, as an incumbent in 2009, raised a little more than $1 million during his first two reporting periods and had $784,054 on hand.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear is suggesting that Kentuckians curb domestic violence by donating their used cell phones and accessories.
Beshear, first lady Jane Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and his wife, Madeline Abramson, kicked off a monthlong drive Wednesday to collect the old phones.
Verizon Wireless has agreed to turn the devices into a cash grant for WorkSafe, a collobarative program of the Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Commission on Women and The Mary Bryon Project, to provide domestic violence prevention training for businesses.
WorkSafe will distribute restored phones to domestic violence clients and give each up to 3,000 free minutes of usage.
At news conferences in Lexington, Frankfort and Louisville, the Beshears and Abramsons said the drive will run Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.
Special collection boxes marked HopeLine will be available at 18 state agencies throughout the state, at University of Kentucky sororities and Verizon stores. Phones from any provider will be accepted.
So far this year, Verizon has given grants of more than $108,000 for domestic violence prevention in Kentucky.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — A Japanese metalworking company is to open its first North American plant in Corbin, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday at a Capitol news conference.
Kowa Kogyosho Co., based in Nagoya, Japan, plans to create 30 jobs by April 2018 and invest $8.3 million into the project at the Corbin Regional Speculative building in the city’s Southeast Kentucky Business Park.
It will provide metal surface treatment for automotive suppliers, through a highly advanced process known as electroless nickel plating.
“Kentucky welcomes Kowa as its newest corporate citizen, one that will significantly enrich the southeastern Kentucky region as well as the entire state,” Beshear said with several Kowa and state and local officials.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has preliminarily approved tax incentives of up to $600,000 for the company through the Kentucky Business Investment program.
The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
The finance authority also approved the company for tax benefits up to $50,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. It allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on constructions cots, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing equipment.
Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes said Kowa Kentucky Inc. will have to meet certain standards to get the incentives but he said all of them – like wages paid – have not yet been determined.
He said Kowa wants “to grow their business in the United States.”
The company hopes to begin commercial production in January 2016 with about 10 employees and then grow.
Company officials stressed that it is a clean company and will cause no pollution.
Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall, Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney and Bruce Carpenter, executive director of the Corbin Economic Development Agency, said they welcome Kowa to southeast Kentucky.
The area is hungry for jobs. The unemployment rate in Knox County is 10.7 percent.
Toshio Muguruma, president of Kowa Kogyosho Co., Ltd., said the company was looking in the Knoxville, Tenn., area to build its first North American plant and selected Corbin.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s new fiscal year is getting off to a positive start.
State budget director Jane Driskell reported Monday that Kentucky’s General Fund, which pays for most programs, saw its receipts total $705.9 million in July, a 2.2 percent increase over the same month last year.
July was the first month of the state’s new 2015 fiscal year.
When the last fiscal year ended June 30, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear had to plug a $91 million shortfall in the state’s $9.5 billion budget after a year of sluggish collections on state income taxes.
He did that by dipping into budget accounts of several state agencies, taking $21.2 million from the state’s $98.2 million” rainy day” or emergency fund and cutting $3 million in state spending.
Driskell said the General Fund growth of 2.2 percent in July is “a positive sign – especially since our two largest taxes – individual income and sales tax – grew at robust levels of 5.9 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.
“Our expectations are that the underlying economic momentum continues to build.”
The official revenue estimate for fiscal year 2015 calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.
Based on July’s results, General Fund revenues need to increase 3.7 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.
Among the state’s major accounts in July, individual income tax receipts rose 5.9 percent, sales tax revenue grew 7.6 percent, cigarette tax collections rose 2.3 percent and the payment to the state from the lottery increased by 3.1 percent.
But corporation income tax collections fell 64.6 percent. The state attributed that to a large one-time payment received in July 2013.
In July 2014, coal severance tax revenues declined 14.8 percent and property tax receipts fell 45 percent. Driskell noted that a small share of property tax receipts is received in July.
Driskell also announced that Road Fund revenues for July totaled $125.4 million, an increase of 5.1 percent compared to last July.
“Growth in the important Road Fund accounts was small but positive in July,” she said. “That is good news given that the forecast for fiscal year 2015 has Road Fund receipts declining slightly.”
For July, motor fuels tax receipts rose 2.8 percent, motor vehicle usage tax jumped 1.4 percent and license and privilege taxes grew 36.3 percent. Non-tax receipts dropped 30.9 percent.
The official revenue estimate for this new fiscal year calls for revenues to decline 0.9 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.
Based on July’s receipts, revenue can fall 1.4 percent for the rest of the fiscal year and still meet budgeted levels.
The percentage of adults without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped to less than 12 percent, the second largest decline among the states since the federal Affordable Care Act took effect in January, a new poll shows.
Kentucky’s uninsured rate dropped from 20.4 percent last year to 11.9 percent halfway through 2014, a decline of 8.5 percentage points, according to a Gallup Poll released this week.
Only Arkansas saw a larger decline.
“From day one, Kentuckians swarmed our exchange, kynect, eager to gain health insurance coverage, some for the very first time in their lives,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement Wednesday touting the new poll. “To see this steep decline in the uninsured rate in such a short period of time reaffirms that kynect is working and we made the right decision for the health and well-being of our citizens.”
President Barack Obama and others have hailed kynect as a national model since it was launched Oct. 1.
At the close of open enrollment on April 15, more than 413,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in health care coverage through kynect. The majority received Medicaid, the government-funded insurance program for the poor and disabled, but more than 82,000 purchased a private insurance plan. Of those, the state said 74 percent qualified for some level of financial assistance to help with their premium costs.
Surveys of kynect enrollees revealed that about 75 percent of applicants who signed up during the initial open enrollment period reported they did not have health insurance prior to signing up for coverage through kynect.
As of July 31, more than 521,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in health care coverage through kynect, Beshear said.
Individuals who qualify for Medicaid may visit kynect to enroll in coverage at any time. Only those individuals who experience a qualifying event, such as the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, may purchase a private health insurance plan outside of the open enrollment period.
The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15, for coverage effective Jan. 1.
Gallup’s poll is the first nationwide survey of the uninsured in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Results were based on telephone interviews with a random sample of more than 178,000 adult Americans.
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.