A new report says Kentucky's prevailing wage law increases labor costs by as much as 51 percent for some public projects.
The Legislative Research Commission said a study of 12 public school projects increased labor costs by about $600,000. A study of 17 state government projects found the prevailing wage law increased labor costs by 6.7 percent.
Democrats said the report was flawed because it did not look at whether the prevailing wage law increased the total cost of construction projects. They argued paying workers higher wages lowers overall construction costs by increasing productivity.
A panel of state lawmakers decided not to adopt the report after a two-hour meeting that featured some heated exchanges. Republicans have generally favored repealing the prevailing wage law while Democrats usually support it.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce wants a full performance audit of the troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems.
Chamber President Dave Adkisson Thursday called on state Auditor Adam Edelen to look into KRS, which is rated as one of the most underfunded pension plans in the nation, with only about 45-percent of the assets needed to cover its retirement obligations.
Adkisson said his group is especially concerned about the burden placed on the actuary who advises the system.
“The assumptions they make lead to KRS recommendations, and a request for money that goes to the Governor,” Adkisson said during a conference call with reporters. “The Governor has to utilize that information to build his budget that goes to the legislature, and all of this is predicated on the assumptions of one actuary. And KTRS, the teachers’ retirement system, uses the same actuary.”
Adkisson says a KRS audit should also look into the amount of investment fees paid by the system, and how that compares to other states. An estimated 30-percent of KRS investments are held in hedge funds and private equity funds, which charge high fees and whose holdings KRS agrees not to reveal.
A planned amusement park in northern Kentucky featuring Noah’s Ark is not eligible for $18 million in state tourism tax benefits.
The Herald-Leader reports Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary sent the group Answers in Genesis a letter saying the commonwealth could not issue such tax benefits for projects with discriminatory hiring practices.
Answers in Genesis is the Christian group behind the Creation Museum, which seeks to explain the origins of the earth through the teachings of the bible. The group’s next project has been dubbed the Ark Park, and will feature a giant ship based on the story of Noah and the great flood.
But questions over whether the state should allow the park tourism tax benefits arose when Answers In Genesis refused to commit to not discriminating based on religion in the hiring process for park employees.
In his letter to a lawyer for Answers in Genesis, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart wrote “it is readily apparent that the project has evolved from a tourist attraction to an extension of AIG’s ministry that will no longer permit the commonwealth to grant the project tourism development incentives.”
Officials with Answers In Genesis were not immediately available for comment following news of the state's decision.
Republican Governor Bill Haslam is questioning why Tennessee's unemployment rate remains well above the national level.
The most recent national unemployment rate released Friday was 5.9 percent -- the lowest level since July 2008, in the middle of the Great Recession. Meanwhile, Tennessee's jobless rate was 7.4 percent in August.
Haslam says Tennessee is among the top states adding new jobs and that the state is not adding a large number of new claims for unemployment benefits. That's why the governor says "it's a little hard to understand" why Tennessee has been unable to whittle away at the unemployment rate.
Haslam says he has asked some economists to look into the statistics to see if they can find an explanation for Tennessee's high unemployment rate.
President Barack Obama's visit to southwestern Indiana will include a stop at a minority-owned steel processor for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.
The Evansville Courier & Press reports Obama will visit Millennium Steel Service LLC to mark Manufacturing Day on Friday. It says there's no time listed in a notification sent by the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. Millennium Steel is located adjacent to the Toyota plant south of Princeton.
Millennium Steel was founded in 2001 as a joint venture between Henry Jackson and Toyota. The company's website says revenue grew from $37 million in 2001 to $250 million in 2011. Black Enterprise Magazine rates the company one of the 100 Top Black Owned Businesses.
The company started with 10 employees. Gibson County officials say it now has 58.
A state economist says Kentucky is on pace in the coming months to fully regain all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.
Economist Monoj Shanker said Thursday that Kentucky has regained 96 percent of the 122,100 jobs that were shed as a result of the deep economic downturn, and that a full pre-recession recovery is expected by year's end.
Shanker says nonfarm employment in Kentucky totaled 1,865,800 in August, up by 24,000 positions from a year ago. Last month's total is 4,800 jobs away from reaching the state's peak employment in January 2008 before job losses began mounting during the recession.
The state says last month's jobless rate in Kentucky dropped to 7.1 percent, down 1.3 percent from a year ago.
Kentucky's unemployment rate remains above the national rate.