Kentucky's automotive industry had more than a million vehicles roll off their lines in 2012 for the first time since 2007.
Kentucky ranks fourth in the nation for total light vehicle production, third in the production of cars and fourth for light trucks. One out of every ten light vehicles produced in the United States in 2012 was made in Kentucky. Kentucky is home to nearly 450 motor vehicle related facilities employing almost 75,000 people. In the last two years, 135 auto industry location or expansion announcements were made representing 7,200 new jobs and nearly $1.8 billion in new capital investments.
Governor Steve Beshear attended the Detroit Auto Show earlier this month for the unveiling of the 2014 Corvette Stingray which is made in Bowling Green. General Motors is in the process of a $131 million plant transformation to the Bowling Green plant.
Unique Granite and Marble Inc. plans to expand their manufacturing operations in Owensboro, creating 25 new full-time jobs and investing $400,000 in the project.
Unique Granite and Marble has been manufacturing custom granite and quartz countertops in Owensboro since 2004 after transitioning from home building and remodeling. The company currently employs 28. With the expansion, the company plans to establish a new division to produce countertops for large commercial and multi-family units throughout a six state region.
The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $250,000 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.
Indiana legislators have introduced bills to help the state’s riverboat casinos hold onto business in the face of growing competition from casinos in neighboring states.
The bills would allow the casinos to move from the boats onto land, reduce their taxes and lift game restrictions on some. A major question, however, is whether any can win approval from lawmakers leery about being perceived as expanding gambling.
Indiana expects a 15 percent drop in the tax revenues from its 13 casinos, from the $614 million it collected last year to about $520 million for the 2015 budget year. State officials blame the decline in part on the opening of new casinos in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.
The Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting tax returns Jan. 30. The IRS had planned to open tax season on Jan. 22, but had to push back the date because of last-minute tax changes Congress made to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
Kentucky IRS spokesman Luis Garcia says the agency has had to re-program its computers and forms to reflect the late changes.
"A lot of work, but we want to make sure the filing season runs as smooth as possible," Garcia replies. The majority, 81% of people in Kentucky get a refund and we want to make sure that money gets sent as quickly as possible."
Despite the late start to tax season, the filing deadline remains April 15th. This isn't the first time the IRS has had to deal with late action by Congress. Two years ago, President Obama and lawmakers were at odds on many of the same issues. That delayed the opening of tax season to mid-February.
The mayors of Lexington and Louisville believe Kentucky needs a local option sales tax to stay competitive. The tax is levied temporarily to finance public infrastructure projects, but an opinion issued this week by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office says voters would first need to approve a constitutional amendment.
According to the opinion, local governments nor the General Assembly may enact a local option sales tax without changing the state constitution. The Courier-Journal reports the opinion was requested by the Louisville Metro Council. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray want counties to be able to locally increase the statewide sales tax and use the additional revenue for public projects. Voters would have to approve the tax and the projects it would fund in a local referendum.
In an opinion issued Monday by Attorney General Jack Conway, the first step would be amending the state constitution.
If a federal judge's ruling goes into effect, businesses that sell liquor in Kentucky may see increased competition — and those businesses are encouraging legislators to act before an appeals decision comes down.
Judge John Heyburn tossed the laws last year, saying it was unconstitutional to allow places like drug stores to sell some wine and liquor, but not groceries.
But Heyburn put that ruling on hold to let lawmakers re-write the laws. Since that point, interested groups have been working on solutions to keep a free-for-all for liquor licenses across the state from happening.
State Senate President Robert Stivers says he wants to wait on an appeals ruling in the case are finished before lawmakers tackle the issue.
But Roger Leasor, the Director of Community Relations with Liquor Barn, a company that owns many liquor stores across Kentucky, says that's a bad idea.
A western Kentucky city plans to have a panel determine whether it can make things easier for businesses looking to locate or expand in the area.
Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne told the Messenger-Inquirer that he's heard several complaints from the business community and this is an attempt to see if there are problems and, if so, how best to address them.
"Ever since I've been mayor, I've heard complaints about problems with planning and zoning and other requirements, or difficulties dealing with City Hall, and given the amount of business activity we have and what I anticipate will occur, we want to make sure it is as easy as possible to do business," Payne said recently in calling for the appointment of a Commission on Business Development.
He said the group would talk to developers and business owners to see what kind of problems they have when they attempt to open or expand a business and determine whether issues really exist.
The next generation Corvette is no longer a secret. With much fanfare, General Motors unveiled a revamped Corvette in Detroit Sunday night, the first new version of the iconic sports car in nine years.
"This car is all new from the ground up and it's absolutely the best performance car we know how to engineer and build," said General Motors North America President Mark Reuss. "I will eagerly put this car up against any of the top performance cars in the world. In terms of design, technology, and performance, this car is second to none."
The 2014 model, so new that it shares only two parts with the current model, picks up cues from the 1963 Stingray. It's described as the most powerful standard model ever, but GM promises it will be the most fuel-efficient Corvette. At the unveiling in Detroit, Reuss offered kudos to the Bowling Green plant for bringing the car the life.
"A few weeks ago we traveled to Bowling Green and drove the first cars made at the plant. Their commitment made this Corvette worthy of the Stingray name once again," praised Reuss.
Work on reforming some of Kentucky’s liquor laws may wait until a federal appeals court rules on a current challenge.
A federal circuit judge threw out state laws dealing with where wine and distilled spirits can be sold, calling them unfair. Currently only select stores — such as liquor stores and pharmacies — can sell those beverages, while others — such as groceries — can only sell beer.
The judge’s ruling challenging that disparity is being appealed to the 6th Circuit and Senate President Robert Stivers wants to wait until that is resolved before his chamber gets involved.
“We have had some discussion of the issue, but we feel it appropriate and it’s my opinion and I feel it appropriate that until it is litigated and gone through the legal system, we don’t know if Judge Heyburn’s decision will be affirmed, or remanded or reversed,” he says.
So far, no proposals on how to change the law that would withstand the judge’s ruling has been put forth, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal concerning Instant Racing games being used at two racetracks in the listening area of WKU Public Radio.
Instant Racing uses videos of old horse races, with the identities of the horses, jockeys, and trainers concealed. Participants place wagers after seeing a brief video clip of the race in the corner of the screen. The games are currently being used at Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson.
The Courier-Journal reports it remains to be seen whether the Kentucky high court will decide, once and for all, whether Instant Racing games can operate in the Bluegrass State. The ruling being appealed was technical in nature, did not address the legality of the game and returned the case to the first court to hear the matter.