Jonathan Meador

Frankfort Bureau Chief

Jonathan is the Frankfort bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.

Meador worked previously as a staff writer for the Nashville Scene and LEO Weekly. Recently, he co-authored, along with R.G. Dunlop of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against State Rep. John Arnold which led to Arnold’s resignation. His work has been honored with several awards from the Louisville Society of Professional Journalists.

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Kentucky Budget
9:00 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Kentucky's Budget Deficit Partly Fueled by Decline in Capital Gains Tax Reciepts

Kentucky Budget Director Jane Driskell
Credit Commonwealth of Kentucky

Kentucky is facing a $91 million budget shortfall, and one of the driving factors is a decline in a form of income primarily used by the nation’s wealthiest individuals.

In 2012, the U.S. Congress was preparing to take the country over the “fiscal cliff” over rising debt, rising healthcare costs, and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To reduce the deficit, President Obama proposed raising the federal capital gains tax, which largely impacted the nation's wealthiest, prompting a massive sell-off by 2013.

As a result, state budget forecasters anticipated a repeat of such revenue on what was essentially a one-time occurrence.

“All states knew of this change, and they made adjustments in their revenue estimates, but it was a much larger impact nationwide than states planned for,” said Kentucky State Budget Director Jane Driskell.

Driskell says there is no need for a special legislative session to address the shortfall. Governor Beshear could issue a budget reduction order to balance the state’s coffers.

Health
2:57 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Report: Kentucky Ranks 10th Lowest for Uninsured

A new report finds  that Kentucky’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured people in the state.

The report, released Wednesday by the personal finance website WalletHub, finds that Kentucky now ranks 10th in the nation for the lowest number of uninsured individuals, at just under nine percent of the population. That number was over 17 percent before the ACA became law, reflecting an 8 percent drop in the rate in one year’s time.

It also found that about 30 percent of Kentuckians under 65 are enrolled in Medicaid.

Nearly 83,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in new private health insurance plans, and 265,000 have enrolled in  Medicaid as of April 2014.

Politics
2:42 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Koch-Tied Group's Arrival Points to Increased Interest In Kentucky State-Level Races

Credit Kevin Willis

The well-funded non-profit Americans for Prosperity's hiring of a Kentucky state director signals to many political observers outside donors' intense interest in this fall's state House races and beyond.

In a news  release on Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity announced that Julia Crigler, a former political director for the Kentucky House Republican Caucus, would lead its efforts in Kentucky.

Democrats maintain a narrow majority over Republicans in the state House, 54-46.

AFP was founded in 2004 and originally helmed by—and maintaining ties with, David Koch—a billionaire libertarian industrialist known for his political and financial support for conservative causes alongside his brother, Charles.

The organization is known for supporting traditionally pro-corporate and conservative issues, and has been a fervent critic of the Affordable Care, climate change and, more recently, net neutrality.

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Politics
4:33 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Conway Announces First-Quarter Fundraising Totals, Decries Super PAC Influence

Jack Conway

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway is concerned about the influence that a conservative 501(c)(4) group could have on Kentucky’s fall elections and beyond.

Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004, and was led by David Koch of the billionaire, right-wing Koch brothers fame. The group and its network of undisclosed donors spent $40 million in 2010 to wrest control of the U.S. House from Democrats.

And with the recent announcement that the group has hired a director for its Kentucky chapter, Attorney General Conway says he’s concerned that the network of “dark” campaign money will warp Kentucky politics.

“I don’t think we ought to let in Kentucky state politics happen what’s happened at the federal level," said Conway. " Because people raise money for Senate campaign or House campaigns, and all of a sudden the corporate interests come in in the end and outspend what the individuals raised, and they treat the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives like it’s members are just nothing more than pawns in a larger corporate game.”

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Economy
3:52 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Beshear Announces $1.3 Million For Eastern Kentucky Revitalization

Gov. Steve Beshear
Credit Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

Gov. Steve Beshear on Monday announced $1.3 million in grants for an initiative  to create jobs in the depressed coal regions of Eastern Kentucky.

The state plans to use $1 million to fund 52 full-time AmeriCorp positions  to shore up "youth engagement, education success and health and human services over the next year," according to a news release from the governor's office. About $312,000 "will support implementation and technical assistance by a consortium of nine Area Development Districts located in the region."

Beyond that, it's unclear how the money will be administered by the 12-member executive committee of the SOAR, or Shaping Our Appalachian Region, initiative.

Beshear, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents Eastern Kentucky, unveiled SOAR in December in an attempt to gather ideas for revitalizing the economically devastated coal communities in Eastern Kentucky.

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Regional
3:40 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Federal Highway Trust Fund Insolvency Threatens $185 Million in Kentucky Projects

Gov. Steve Beshear
Credit Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

Congressional inaction threatening the solvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund may cost Kentucky $185 million for projects, drastically changing how the state pays for road construction, Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday.

Beshear and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was visiting the state, criticized Congress for  inaction that will reduce the amount the highway trust fund reimburses states for roadwork by 28 percent, affecting upwards of 700,000 jobs nationwide.

"Simply put, if you drive on Kentucky's highways, or if your business depends upon our roads to move your workers, your goods, your supplies or your customers, you will see a negative impact," Beshear said.

Of the $185 million in jeopardy, $150 million will affect the widening of I-65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman said. The remaining $35 million is slated for "pavement rehabilitation" projects across the state.

Neither Beshear nor KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock offered a figure of how many road contracting jobs in Kentucky could be affected if Congress doesn't shore up the fund.

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Breaking
12:55 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Judge Strikes Down Kentucky's Gay Marriage Ban

A federal judge has ruled that Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a decision that could pave the way for same-sex couples to get married in the state.

Federal Judge John Heyburn ruled Tuesday that the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause, calling the state’s counter argument that gay couples can’t contribute to the state’s economic well being because they can’t procreate “illogical” and “bewildering.”

Dan Cannon is an attorney for the couples involved in the suit. He tells Kentucky Public Radio it’s only a matter of time before Kentucky joins 19 states that have legalized same-sex marriages.

“We’re excited about the ruling and we’re optimistic about it, and we’re optimistic that same-sex couples will in the very near future be able to get marriage licenses in Kentucky,” said Cannon.  

In a statement, Gov. Steve Beshear says he plans to appeal Heyburn’s ruling in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Education
3:44 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Federal Money to Boost Broadband Capacity of Kentucky's Schools

Kentucky is poised to receive federal grant money to improve broadband speeds in public schools.

The Federal Communication Commission’s E-rate program provides $2.4 billion dollars annually to schools across the country to modernize Internet accessibility. 

Now that the FCC has pledged an additional $2 billion for the next two years, Kentucky educators are poised to get a $22 million slice of that pie.

Associate Commissioner of the state’s Office of Next Generation Learners, Amanda Ellis, says the money will improve connectivity to wireless devices that can download video lessons for students to watch at home.

“Students have the opportunity to watch videos in the evening, or after school. And when they go into their classrooms, and their teachers work from what they learned online. That’s not accessible to a lot of people even in the school setting, because it’s not fast enough.”

The FCC is expected to make a decision on the funds next month.

Politics
3:25 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

KRS Chief: State Could Be Stuck with Paying $2.5 Billion in Unpaid Pension Liabilities

Kentucky lawmakers are mulling over ways to deal with a lawsuit between quasi-governmental agencies and their financial relationship to the beleaguered Kentucky Retirement System.

Last year, Seven Counties Services, a mental health nonprofit that contracts with state government, filed for bankruptcy over its pension debt. When a federal judge ruled last month that the nonprofit didn’t have to pay those obligations to the Kentucky Retirement System, KRS executive director Bill Thielen said his organization would appeal the decision.

If that effort fails, the remaining employers in the pension system could foot a $2.4 billion tab to cover the cost of the added liabilities. 

Thielen says he supports legislation like that crafted by Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel that would require groups like Seven Counties who voluntarily withdraw from the retirement system to pay off their pension obligations.

“They would only be able to withdraw having fully paid their obligation, and that’s what we believe should be the case, otherwise all the other participating employers are going to have to pick up the tab,” Thielen told lawmakers Wednesday.

McDaniel’s bill died in the House this year, but lawmakers say they’ll continue studying their options as the appeal in the case drags on for the next couple of years.

Regional
5:09 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Kentucky Aerospace Advocates Push For Industry Study

Aerospace advocates have briefed state lawmakers on how investment in aviation and space technology could spur job creation and improve the STEM scores of public school students.

In the mid-1990s, Kentucky was one of the nation’s leaders in aerospace engineering and manufacturing. 

To hone that edge, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education has partnered with over 30 schools in Kentucky and Tennessee to shore up math and science scores and “pipeline” students into aerospace fields.

Dr. Tim Smith is the CEO of the institute. He says that increased coordination among state cabinets in focusing on aerospace could accelerate the impact of the student pipeline.

“Over the past three years, we’ve noticed we’ve had 100 percent graduation rate," said Smith.  "Not one student has dropped out of school. We’re 17 percent higher on the state average on the ACT, and we meet the benchmarks for college readiness in math and science. We exceed them quite heavily.” 

Experts estimate that as of last year, aerospace manufacturing had a $5.5 billion dollar impact on Kentucky’s economy.

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