A new report shows tourism related to Mammoth Cave National Park is responsible for $40 million in economic benefit to the region.
The analysis conducted by a group of economists with the U.S. Geological Survey measured the impact of tourism dollars spent by park visitors in 2013. According to the report, 494,541 visitors came to Mammoth Cave National Park last year, with tourism dollars supporting 567 jobs in the region.
Mammoth Cave acting superintendent Lizzie Watts told WKU Public Radio the nearly half-a-million visitors who came to the south-central Kentucky attraction did more than just spend money. She says they also walked away with an enhanced respect for the region that they take back with them to their communities across the U.S. and globe.
“The environment of Mammoth Cave is one of the most unique in the whole world. So just the experience of walking in the cave for many people, it’s the one time--and maybe the only time—they get that experience. And they can take that all over the world and say ‘yes, I was in the largest cave system in the whole world.’”
Watts says Mammoth Cave is seeing an increase in the number of visitors interested in boating along the Green River, as well as those using the eight-mile Big Hollow Trail, which was opened in December to mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.
“The park itself is really a mecca for recreation above the ground, in many ways, both biking and hiking, and boating and canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding.”
Overall, the new report says the 273.6 million visitors to National Park Service attractions in 2013 spent $14.6 billion in areas within 60 miles of a park.
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.
Albert Mbanfu, Executive Director, Bowling Green International Center; Dalton Workman, Chairman, WKU College Republican; and H.H. Barlow, Owner, Barlu Farms, Presidential Appointee to US Board for International Food & Agriculture Development speak in favor of national immigration reform during the press conference at the International Center in Bowling Green, Ky.
A coalition of business, political, and refugee-rights groups in south-central Kentucky is calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.
As part of a so-called national “Day of Action”, representatives from various backgrounds spoke Wednesday in Bowling Green about the need for Congressional leaders and the Obama Administration to get reform passed this year.
Barren County dairy farmer H.H. Barlow, a presidential appointee to the U.S. Board for International Food and Agriculture Development, said many Americans don’t understand the impact immigrant labor has on sectors such as the agriculture industry.
“I hate the word ‘criminals’, or ‘illegal aliens’—I don’t like that term. They’re workers. They’re performing an essential service to our country,” Barlow said.
The Barren County farmer said he speaks to his elected representatives about the need for immigration reform each time he sees them. Barlow believes that reform will not only benefit immigrants, but also the U.S. economy.
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.
Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators have helped defeat an effort to raise the federal minimum wage.
Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul joined almost every other GOP Senator Wednesday in voting against a bill that would have boosted the minimum pay level for federal workers to $10.10 an hour by 2016, up from the current rate of $7.25.
Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats voted against the bill, with Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly supporting it.
Overall, the bill received 54 votes in favor and 42 votes against, short of the 60-vote threshold needed to continue.
Tennessee’s Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure.
The federal minimum wage bill has become a hot campaign topic ahead of the next round of Congressional elections. Democrats have portrayed GOP opposition to a minimum wage increase as proof of Republican disinterest in the working class poor.
Republicans point to a Congressional Budget Office report that found such an increase could cost the economy 500,000 jobs.
Senator Rand Paul says raising the minimum wage would negatively impact job prospects for minorities and children.
The Courier-Journal reports that while speaking Monday night to a group of business owners and officials in Louisville, Sen. Paul said Congress could help the poor and unemployed by cutting corporate and personal income taxes in struggling areas.
The Bowling Green Republican has introduced a bill that would create what he calls “economic freedom zones” in zip codes where at least one-quarter of the residents live at or below the poverty line.
That move comes amid a debate at both the federal and state governmental levels over whether the minimum wage should be hiked. Congress is considering whether to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo sponsored legislation this year that would have increased the state’s minimum wage to that same level over the course of three years.
Toyota North America is consolidating its corporate headquarters from three locations down to one. Offices in Erlanger, Kentucky, California and New York will be moving to the Dallas suburb of Plano.
That means about a 1,500 employees from Erlanger will be relocated. About 300 of those employees will be moving to the manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, which will remain open. But 250 will move to Michigan, the remainder will go to Texas.
In a letter to Governor Steve Beshear, Toyota says the changes will leave about 8,200 Toyota employees in Kentucky. Beshear calls the move “extremely disappointing”.
The director of one of Kentucky’s leading non-profit economic policy think tanks says the recently-passed state budget fails to address the state’s revenue problem.
Jason Bailey, the director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says the budget, which includes five percent cuts to over a dozen state agencies, reflects the 14th round of harmful cuts since 2008, and doesn't do enough to generate new revenue.
“There are areas that have been time after time after time, so I think for higher education, for human services, for areas like environmental and public and worker protection, I think those systems will be frayed even further by the cuts that we’ve seen.”
Bailey adds that the revenue bill passed by the legislature that gives tax breaks to the bourbon industry and beer and wine wholesalers aren’t worth the cuts to important state agencies.
An effort is underway in the Kentucky General Assembly to enact a state Earned Income Tax Credit in addition to the federal one.
A state EITC is part of the tax reform proposal being considered this session, and it’s also included in stand-alone legislation.
Democratic Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson says the federal EITC most often is used to purchase basic necessities and has a ripple effect in the local economy.
"What you find from the federal earned income tax credit is that it's probably the number one item that's spent immediately upon being received by working families who qualify for the earned income tax credit," explains Abramson.
The tax reform plan calls for a state EITC at 7.5% of the federal credit. Separate legislation filed by Senator Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, would allow at state EITC of 15% of the federal credit.
"This is an opportunity to encourage all the right values - work, responsibility, family, and fairness," comments McGarvey. "Ronald Reagan called the EIC the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress, and we need to embrace that opportunity in Kentucky."
If approved by the legislature, Kentucky would be the 25th state to have a state EITC.
Fifty-two percent of Kentuckians wouldn’t have enough money to get by at the federal poverty level if they lost their job. The report says that means more than half of households in the commonwealth “are one crisis away" from financial devastation.
Sixty-percent of Kentucky residents have sub-prime credit, which is defined as a credit score below 570.
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Director Jason Bailey says the report is proof that the commonwealth has steeper economic challengers compared to many other states, because of Kentucky’s traditional reliance on low-wage jobs.