When President Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this month, he said protecting the two industries was vital for national security.

"We want to build our ships. We want to build our planes. We want to build our military equipment with steel, with aluminum from our country," he said at a March 8 White House news conference.

In other words, the U.S. military should be as self-sufficient as possible, and not rely on other countries to supply the essential materials it needs for defense.

Erica Peterson

Add another export to the growing list of American products other countries could tax because of tariffs: met coal.

Metallurgical coal — or “met coal” — is low-ash, low-sulfur coal that’s used to produce coke, an essential fuel for steel-making.

Demand for met coal is tied to the demand for steel. It’s also an American export and a symbol President Donald Trump used often on the campaign trail to demonstrate how he would “Make America great again.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

Century Aluminum Executive Vice President Jesse Gary said his company will begin hiring up to 300 new workers for its Hancock County smelter as soon as a proposed tariff order is signed.

President Trump is expected to announce a 10 percent tariff on aluminum and a 25 percent tariff on steel this week. Century Aluminum said its smelter in Hancock County could be back to full capacity by 2019 if the tariff order is signed.


An analyst from the Tax Foundation said raising the state cigarette tax is the wrong approach to creating new revenue in Kentucky. The Kentucky House passed a 50 cent cigarette tax hike last week as part of a two-year budget bill.

The Tax Foundation said Kentucky’s 2009 cigarette tax increase provided an initial boost in revenue, followed by a significant decline in the following years. Morgan Scarboro with the Tax Foundation said cigarette tax revenues are a volatile and unreliable source of revenue.


The two-year spending plan passed by the Kentucky House allocates $70 million to reopen three private prisons.


Daniel Cameron is a spokesperson for the criminal justice reform group Kentucky Smart On Crime. He said the money being spent to incarcerate people for low level drug offenses could be better spent elsewhere.

“For every dollar that’s eaten up by the corrections budget that’s another dollar that can’t be utilized to go after serious violent offenders,” he said.

Updated at 5:14 p.m. ET

President Trump promised steel and aluminum executives Thursday that he will levy tariffs on imports of their products in coming weeks. He said the imported steel will face tariffs of 25 percent, while aluminum will face tariffs of 10 percent.

"We're going to build our steel industry back and we're going to build our aluminum industry back," Trump told reporters.

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Coal companies controlled by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s family owe nearly $3 million in delinquent Kentucky property taxes, money that local governments desperately need to avoid laying off teachers.

The Lexington Herald-Leader cited records Monday saying the Kentucky Fuel Corporation is behind nearly $2 million on taxes on real estate, mining equipment and coal reserves in Knott County alone.

Federal mining records say James and Jill Justice became controllers of Kentucky Fuel in April, but the taxes have been overdue since their billionaire father was in charge.

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Kentucky won’t be feeling as much of the effect of the federal tax reform law as most other states. That’s partly because the commonwealth doesn’t combine the standard deduction and the personal exemption.

According to a report from the Tax Foundation, Kentuckians won’t see significant changes in their state tax filings. But they will see that some of the exemptions they’ve previously claimed are more limited now.

Senior Policy analyst with the Tax Foundation Jared Walczak said the federal tax law changes are pro-growth and give states a chance to reform their own codes to become more competitive.

Becca Schimmel

The Ohio Valley was once synonymous with steel. Even after the industry’s sharp decline the region is still home to many industries that produce or use steel and aluminum. Those industries are closely watching what the Trump administration will do on steel and aluminum imports.

The Department of Commerce has suggested a massive 24 percent global tariff on those imports. As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to apply tariffs. Now, it’s unclear if President Trump will follow through.

Mary Meehan

A liberal leaning policy institute is suggesting the state focus more on raising revenue and less on cutting social programs.  A new report shows that over the past decade the state has had 19 rounds of budget cuts. The governor’s proposed budget includes across the board cuts, as well as reduced funding to some social programs and educational resources.


The report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says the state could raise revenue by limiting income tax breaks, taxing online purchases and repealing some tax exemptions. Executive director Jason Bailey said lawmakers seem more willing to look at taxes as an option for raising revenue than they have been in the past.

Ryland Barton

A spokesman for a regional Kentucky Transportation Cabinet office said his agency isn’t as affected by state budget cuts as some other parts of government. But he said the legislature needs to talk about updating the funding model to keep up with technological changes like electric vehicles.

The transportation cabinet relies on a gas tax for the majority of its funding. Because Kentucky has so many interstates that tax often provides the money needed to maintain and update roads and bridges. Spokesman for the state transportation cabinet office in Elizabethtown, Chris Jessie, said lawmakers will have to consider new funding models given the increasing popularity of electric cars.

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced it will change the way it counts troops deployed overseas, while keeping its policy on counting prisoners for the upcoming national headcount in 2020. How these two populations are factored into the 2020 census could affect the balance of power in government at both the federal and local levels.

A liberal-leaning public policy group said Kentucky’s per-pupil spending on public education is lower than it was ten years ago once inflation is taken into account.

During his budget address last month, Governor Bevin promised to maintain per-pupil funding for the state’s K-12 students.

But a report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows that when inflation is taken into account, the amount of money spent by the state on a per-pupil basis has actually decreased by 16 percent since 2008. Ashley Spalding is a senior policy analyst with KCEP. She said claims that public school funding has been maintained are misleading.

Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

At a recent conference in Lexington, Kentucky, economists and community leaders gathered to talk about the state’s current budget crunch and possible economic future. Peter Hille, president of Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, said Kentucky and other Appalachian states need to do more to build a new economy and move from dependence on a single source.

“Because coal played such a dominant role, it took the oxygen out of the room for the development of other sectors of the economy,” he said.

State officials say they have installed more than 600 miles of fiber optic cables as part of a planned 3,200 mile broadband network across Kentucky.

But the network still faces significant delays as the project piles up millions of dollars in penalties because of what leaders say was an unrealistic construction schedule.