Kentucky only has about 40 estates that would benefit this year from repealing the federal estate tax, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

U.S. House Republicans are pushing to repeal the tax, which taxes assets left by the deceased at a rate of 40 percent.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the tax would reduce revenues by about $269 billion over the next decade.

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy director Jason Bailey said repealing the tax would hurt Kentuckians because of the state’s dependence on federal assistance.

“Kentucky’s economy, our communities, our quality of life really depend on federal resources coming back to us, and when those federal resources are cut because of tax cuts, particularly misguided tax cuts that benefit the super-rich as the estate tax does, that harms the state,” Bailey said.

Estates that are less than $5.43 million for a single person and $10.9 million for married couples are exempted from the tax.

President Obama to visit Louisville on Thursday

Mar 30, 2015
White House

Update: 5:12 am

President Barack Obama will visit Louisville on Thursday for an event on the economy, the White House announced Monday.

The stop at Indatus will be Obama's first visit to Kentucky since 2011 when he went to Fort Campbell near the Tennessee border to greet soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

While Obama has not been in Kentucky for a few years, he has loomed large over the state's politics. Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell won a landslide victory in November based largely on tying his opponent to Obama. Polls routinely show about 60 percent of Kentucky voters disapprove of Obama as president.

Kentucky will be in the political spotlight again in November with one of the country's few governors' races in what is traditionally an off year for elections.

Industry groups from around the state have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping Louisville’s minimum wage ordinance from going into effect.

Brent Baughman is an attorney representing the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited.

“Unlike other litigation, this is a pure question of law for a court to decide," Baughman says.

Mackenzie Cantrell, an attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said the judge’s decision could have larger implications for state municipalities that are enacting laws that don’t get passed on the state level.

Louisville’s ordinance will increase the minimum wage to $9 dollars over the next three years. The ordinance is still set to kick in July 1.

Governor Steve Beshear is leaving Saturday for an economic development trip to Germany and Sweden.

Beshear's office said Wednesday that the governor has been invited to speak at a symposium in Germany, where he will discuss Kentucky's role in the global auto industry. More than a thousand auto executives from around the world gather for the yearly conference.

Flickr/Creative Commons

A program designed to benefit Kentucky's manufacturing sector is expanding statewide.  Governor Beshear made the announcement Wednesday at the Georgetown Toyota plant, where the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education initiative is already underway. 

Kentucky Community and Technical College System President Jay Box says under the program, sponsoring manufacturers pay for two years of student instruction. "It requires a dedicated student because they are very structured in their education and in their work during this program," said Box. "But, it also gets them through in two years and that's quite an advantage."      

Program participants attend classes two days a week at area community and technical colleges, and work 24 hours per week for supporting employers.  Upon completion of the program, students receive an associate degree in applied sciences and, in many cases, stay on to work full-time.       

Greg Higdon with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers says expanding the initiative may result in more firms locating in the Commonwealth.

WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s unemployment rate continues its downward trend. The Office of Employment and Training announced Thursday the state’s jobless rate was down to six percent in November. 

It’s slightly above the national average in November, but it’s a drop of two-tenths of a percent from October. 

It’s the first time in 6 ½ years the Kentucky unemployment rate has been this low.

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.

Answers in Genesis

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.

The November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the U.S. job market continues to improve at a steady pace.

Here are the two big numbers from Friday's report:

Haslam Questions High Jobless Rate in Tennessee

Oct 7, 2014

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.

The White House

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.

New data released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Kentucky ranks 40th in the nation for child poverty.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey says 25.3 percent of Kentucky children lived in poverty in 2013, which is a little more than three percent higher than the national average.

The latest Census Bureau figures also include child poverty rates for Kentucky counties with populations of over 65,000 people:

  • Boone County   12.5%
  • Bullitt County     13.8%
  • Campbell County  24.8%
  • Christian County  15.0%
  • Daviess County  20.9%
  • Fayette County  23.2%
  • Hardin County   20.7%
  • Jefferson County  22.4%
  • Kenton County  22.4%
  • McCracken County  31.9%
  • Madison County  21.3%
  • Pike County  25.7%
  • Warren County  22.5%

Kentucky Youth Advocates director Terry Brooks says anything that can be done to alleviate the number of economically distressed young people will pay off down the road.

Kentucky Nears Full Job Recovery from Recession

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Creative Commons

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.

Report Shows Kentucky Workers Still Struggling

Aug 29, 2014
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services

A new report on the state of Kentucky workers suggests the state’s economy has a ways to go before it fully recovers from the 2008 recession.

But some relief has come as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

As we enter Labor Day Weekend in Kentucky, most workers will take a day off from a job whose wages have stagnated.

That’s one takeaway from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy’s annual report, “The State of Working Kentucky 2014.”