HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear has asked President Obama to issue a major disaster declaration and provide emergency assistance to four Eastern Kentucky communities recovering from recent flooding.
Strong storms from Aug. 19 to 23 caused heavy rain and flash flooding, which washed out roads and forced people from their homes throughout the eastern part of the state. Communities in Floyd, Knott, Johnson and Pike counties were the hardest hit.
“These severe storms and subsequent flooding caused widespread destruction to the state and community infrastructure in Floyd, Knott, Johnson and Pike counties, as well as to private homes,” Beshear said in his letter.
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments. Federal assistance is necessary to supplement the efforts and available resources of the state, local governments, disaster relief organizations and compensation by insurance for disaster-related losses.”
Beshear is seeking the declaration “so that the requested federal assistance programs will be available to meet the needs of the communities in the affected areas.”
A preliminary damage assessment by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated that the damages exceed $6 million for this disaster.
This is the first disaster declaration request Kentucky has made since a swath of tornadoes caused heavy destruction in eastern Kentucky in March 2012.
Kentucky has had 11 federal disaster declarations since 2008.
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.
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT — Sarah M. Jackson, who has been head of the state agency that enforces state campaign finance laws since 1999, is to retire Nov. 1.
Craig C. Dilger, board chairman for the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, announced Jackson’s retirement Thursday at a board meeting.
“Sarah has been a tremendous asset to the agency and a true professional as executive director. The agency is stronger for it,” Dilger said in a release.
Jackson, 57, was general counsel for the state Cabinet for Workforce Development from 1998 to 1999 and was director of the Division of Charitable Gaming in the Justice Cabinet from 1996 to 1998. She was the division’s assistant director when it started in 1994.
Jackson was an assistant attorney general from 1982 to 1986 before joining the law firm of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie and Kirkland in its Frankfort office.
The registry board appointed Rebecca Feland of Lawrenceburg, the agency’s budget analyst, to be interim director until a permanent director is hired.
Dilger said the search process will take several months.
Fact-checkers at The Washington Post and PolitiFact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, have been busy researching the claims made by Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes) and their surrogates during the first 17 days of September. Here’s what they found.
A television ad aired by the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, which the Washington Post described as “an independent group with connections to Republican strategist Karl Rove,” earned three Pinocchios (the equivalent of mostly false) from Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler on Sept. 17. The ad claimed Grimes is a “proud supporter of Obama’s amnesty plan.” But Kessler says this:
Grimes certainly supports a bill that would prove a pathway to citizenship for undocumented aliens, as does Obama. Whether this is “amnesty” is in the eye of the beholder. But this was not a bill crafted by either Obama or Grimes, but a coalition of Republicans and Democrats–an unusual example of bipartisan cooperation in this period of intense partisanship.
Moreover, the bill that emerged from the Senate set tough rules for that pathway — including denying access to virtually all federal means-tested benefits. In doing so, the bill largely met criteria set by donors and supporters of the very organization that is now blasting Grimes on this issue. It is bizarre and hypocritical for this group to now falsely attack Grimes for supporting a middle ground approach that its supporters once championed.
A spot aired by Senate Majority PAC, which the Washing Post said is “affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,” also earned three Pinocchios from Kessler on Sept. 9. The ad claims that “Mitch McConnell has been tragically wrong about foreign trade deals. They have cost Americans over half a million jobs. Kentucky is still losing jobs, and McConnell is still voting to give companies tax deductions for outsourcing. Mitch said it is not his job to create jobs. The least he could do is stop sending them away.” But Kessler says this:
The under-the-radar nature of this ad suggests that Senate Majority PAC hoped to slip this political stiletto past the media and the fact checkers — or that the organization is somehow embarrassed by its own message. But the fact remains that NAFTA was championed by both Democrats and Republicans, and objective studies have found its overall impact to be modest. Kentucky has both gained and lost jobs because of globalization — and there is no evidence McConnell is trying to “send them away.”
McConnell’s voting record:
An ad by the Grimes campaign that makes several claims about McConnell’s voting record and personal wealth also got three Pinocchios from the Post on Sept. 5. Here’s what Kessler concluded:
This ad, on balance, just narrowly avoids getting Four Pinocchios. While it is correct that McConnell has often voted against boosting the minimum wage, for philosophical reasons, most of the other claims is the ad are false, misleading or lacking important context.
Corporate tax breaks for outsourcing:
On Sept. 12, PolitFact gave a “mostly false” ruling to a claim in the same Grimes ad that McConnell voted “three times for corporate tax breaks that send Kentucky jobs overseas.” PolitiFact concluded:
The ad makes it seem like McConnell voted to approve corporate tax breaks that incentivize outsourcing. Actually, he voted “no” on legislation that would have eliminated the standard business expense deductions — which exist for all businesses — for costs associated with outsourcing. (Current law includes no provision that specifically addresses insourcing or outsourcing.) These bills had little chance of passing, and they were largely symbolic.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — A former official of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources created an oppressive work environment for women by telling them what clothes to wear and asking one to show her breasts, according to an ethics settlement released Monday.
In a settlement approved by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission Monday, Kenneth “Scott” King of Frankfort did not contest charges that he violated state ethics laws by using his position as the department’s assistant administrative services director to “create an oppressive and hostile atmosphere in his division to suit his own prurient, personal interests.”
The agreement said King told subordinate employees to wear certain articles of clothing he favored and to wear short skirts and high heels to meetings, and on one occasion told an employee to allow him to see her breasts in exchange for favorable treatment at work.
Also, during staff meetings, King would tell women employees which of their body parts he and other male supervisors preferred.
In the agreement, King also admitted using the department’s John Deere tractor for personal use.
State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s announcement this week that he is an official candidate for governor 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, will be Adam Beam of the Associated Press, Lawrence Smith of Louisville’s WDRB-TV AND Scott Wartman of The Kentucky Enquirer.
The show will air live at 8 p.m. Friday on KET.
“Kentucky Tonight’ on KET will be preempted on Monday, Sept. 15, by “Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU Visitation and funeral arrangements for Charlann Harting Carroll, the wife of former Gov. Julian Carroll who died Wednesday at the age of 81, have been set. Both visitation and the funeral will be held at the Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church at 495 Duckers Road off U.S. Highway 421 near Frankfort and […]
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The state’s General Fund, which pays for most state programs, improved in August while the state Road Fund dipped ever so slightly.
State budget director Jane C. Driskell said Wednesday that General Fund receipts increased 1.2 percent in August compared to the same month last year.
Total revenues for the month were $671.9 million, compared to $663.7 million during August 2013.
So far this fiscal year 2015 that began July 1, General Fund receipts have increased 1.7 percent.
The official revenue estimate for the fiscal year calls for revenue to increase 3.6 percent compared to last year’s actual receipts.
Based on August results, General Fund revenues need to grow 3.9 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year to meet the official estimate.
Despite the low rate of growth, there were some encouraging undertones reflected in the monthly numbers.
Driskell said she was “pleased to see two solid performances from our largest revenue sources, the individual income tax and year-to-date sales tax revenues.”
On the income tax side, growth in withholding payments (payroll taxes) grew 9.7 percent, following growth of 6.5 percent in July.
The growth rate on sales tax receipts was only 1.1 percent for the month, but 4.4 percent year to date.
Driskell said potential weakness in the corporate income tax continues to be a concern.
“September corporate income receipts will be a more appropriate barometer, as it is the first month in fiscal year 2015 where estimated quarterly payments are due. We’ll be in a better position to reexamine the fiscal year projections once the first quarter is complete.”
Among the major General Fund accounts:
● Individual income taxes increased 9 percent almost entirely due to withholding
● Sales tax revenues rose 1.1 percent and have increased 4.4 percent through the first two months.
● Corporation income tax collections declined $11.4 million as both declarations and net
payments. Collections year-to-date are up 7.5 percent.
● Cigarette taxes fell 0.3 percent but have grown 0.9 percent for the year.
● Property taxes grew 30.3 percent (timing issues) but have decreased 7.0 for the fiscal
● Coal severance tax collections increased 5.9 percent in August but are down 4.9 percent
● Lottery revenues grew 6.3 percent on the basis of a $17.0 million dividend payment.
Receipts for the Road Fund fell 0.1 percent in August with revenues of $141.1 million.
The official Road Fund revenue estimate calls for a 0.9 percent decline in receipts for the entire fiscal year
Based on year-to-date collections, revenues can decrease 1.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year and still meet the estimate.
Among the accounts:
• Motor fuels fell 0.7 percent in August but have increased 0.9 percent for the year.
• Motor vehicle usage collections decreased 0.9 percent for the month but have grown
0.2 percent for the first two months of the fiscal year.
• License and privilege tax fell 4.4 percent.
• Nont-tax receipts increased $2.4 million and are up $2.1 million for the fiscal year.
By Jack Brammer
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation Tuesday to support making Mill Springs Battlefield in Southern Kentucky part of the National Park System.
McConnell’s legislation directs the U.S. Secretary of Interior to evaluate including the Civil War battlefield as a national park. Such a feasibility study makes a final national park designation easier to achieve.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, successfully introduced and backed identical legislation earlier this year in the U.S. House.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers asked for an attorney general’s opinion Monday on whether Kentucky counties can adopt so-called ‘right-to-work’ provisions that let employees work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying dues.
Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said in a news release that he is seeking the opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway because Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell recently opined that the Louisville Metro Government has the authority to require a higher minimum wage than the minimum wage established by federal or state law.
“Using Mr. O’Connell’s analysis, a county should also be able to establish itself as a right-to-work county,” said Stivers.
The Senate leader noted that he sought the request as legislators prepare for the 2015 General Assembly that begins in January. Republicans in the state Senate have pushed the issue for years, but House Democrats oppose the measure.
Many Republicans say such a state law is needed to spur economic development while many Democrats argue it would lower wages by weakening unions.
A recent Bluegrass Poll found that 55 percent of Kentuckians favor changing state laws to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues. Twenty-eight percent of those polled were opposed.
Stivers said the issue “will be of continuing interest to localities that are looking for innovative ways to attract new businesses.”
He noted that 24 states have enacted “right-to-work” laws that are not pre-empted by federal law.
Stivers was not immediately available to take questions about his request. O’Connell, a Democrat, was not immediately available for comment.
Conway spokeswoman Allison Gardner Martin, said the attorney general’s office will review Stivers’ request.