Economy

The state Attorney General's Office says Friday is the last day for Kentuckians to file a claim to receive a payment under the national mortgage settlement.  Thousands of borrowers who lost their homes between 2008 and 2011 may be eligible to receive a payment.

The nation's five largest mortgage servicers agreed to the settlement with the federal government and 49 state attorneys general last year. 

"Basically this settlement settles claims by the attorneys general that during the housing crisis and foreclosure crisis in the United States, these banks had allegedly engaged in fraudulent behavior which included robo signing documents that it filed with the court," said Allison Martin, a spokeswman for the Kentucky Attorney General's Office.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky legislative leaders say solutions on how to pay for Kentucky’s underfunded pensions won’t likely be addressed in the 2013 legislative session.

Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers say there will likely be a bill to introduce changes to the pension systems. But they also agree that such a bill is unlikely to deal how to fund the changes.

What they disagree on is when to deal with the funding solutions. Stumbo says pension funding should be dealt with in a special session, hand in hand with tax reform.

“There’ll be a bill, I don’t know whether it will be addressed," Stumbo says. "I think that we need, probably, to address the entire issue and that include the funding mechanism."

But Stivers says lawmakers should pass the changes now and deal with fully funding the pension system starting in 2014, when a new budget must be passed.

Elizabethtown Votes Down Liquor By the Drink Initiative

Jan 9, 2013

Voters in Elizabethtown have turned down liquor by the drink.

The News-Enterprise reports a liquor initiative failed Tuesday by 275 votes among fewer that 2,800 votes cast. Voters had overwhelmingly approved package liquor sales in October 2011.

Under commonwealth law, another referendum on liquor by the drink can't be held for three years in Elizabethtown.

Kentucky Mayors to Speak about Crippling Pension Costs

Jan 7, 2013

The mayors of Kentucky's two largest cities and other community leaders will call for legislative action to address rising pension costs and how they are impacting communities.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray are planning to speak about the pension problems Monday morning at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort.

The morning news conference will also preview a national report from the Pew Center on the States that addresses the impact of pension costs on cities, including Louisville.

Other officials scheduled to attend the event are Kentucky League of Cities director Jonathan Steiner and Kentucky Association of Counties president Tommy Turner.

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will consider proposing an expanded gambling package this year that does not include increased gaming at the state's horsetracks.

Beshear says that may be the only way he can get a gambling bill passed in the state legislature.

The Governor has tried unsuccessfully in the past to get a casino gambling bill through the Kentucky Senate. Expanded gambling supporters have hoped that last year's retirement of former Senate President David Williams, who opposed increased gaming, would better the bill's odds in 2013.

A decline in coal mining tax revenue has many of Kentucky’s top officials concerned. House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Governor Steve Beshear say they are worried about the declining revenues form the coal severance tax.

The tax is used for a variety of state, county and local infrastructure projects, mostly in Eastern Kentucky. Beshear says the drop in revenue reflects the tough market for Kentucky coal.

“I am concerned about the coal severance receipts, they are down, they’re down significantly. And that because coal mining is down significantly, the tons of coal mined has dropped.”

Beshear says exports, mainly to India and China, could help the revenues rebound. However, the first shipment of coal in a celebrated trade deal with an Indian company is months behind schedule.

Even as Air Force One was about to land in suburban Maryland this morning — bringing President Obama back from his vacation in Hawaii to resume negotiations aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor of the Senate warning that a dive off that cliff seems inevitable.

A state senator who represents parts of south-central Kentucky isn't betting on major changes to the state's tax code this upcoming legislative session. Overhauling what's been described as an antiquated tax system is at, or near, the top of many lawmakers' agendas.

Sen. David Givens, who represents Allen, Barren, Edmonson, Green, Metcalfe, and Simpson counties, says while there's a lot of talk in the air about streamlining Kentucky's tax code, he doubts anything will pass during the 2013 General Assembly.

"From what I gather, I don't think the tax reform issue is far enough down the road that we can make those sorts of changes in the session ahead, with it being a short session," the Greensburg Republican told WKU Public Radio.

A panel appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to look at changes to Kentucky's tax system has proposed lowering individual and corporate tax rates, raising the cigarette tax and expanding the state sales tax to certain services.

Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said the changes recommended by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform would generate about $659 million in new state revenue each year.

Abramson, who headed the commission, said the changes will make Kentucky more competitive in creating jobs.

The proposal would lower the state's top corporate tax rate to 5.8 percent from 6 percent. Individual income tax rates also would drop. The state's cigarette tax would go to $1 a pack from the current 60 cents.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is reportedly signaling that he and fellow GOP Senators are open to a strategy that would likely lead to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s highest earners. The website Politico is reporting McConnell talked about Senate Republican strategy late last week during a dinner in Washington with lobbyists.

Citing multiple sources in the room, Politico reporters say McConnell told those in attendance that Senate Republicans were looking to take a “two-bill strategy” to resolving the fiscal cliff crisis. Under such a plan, two different bills would be advanced in Congress, giving each party the chance to vote on the approach they favored, while knowing only one measure will actually be signed into law.

Poltico reports McConnell suggested he believed Senate Republicans could support a bill that renewed the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the top 2% of wage-earners, and increased taxes on capital gains and dividends from 15% to 20%. At the same time, the GOP-led House would pass a second bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans. Such a move could possibly allow House Republicans to save face with supporters who are against raising any taxes.

Kentucky and Ohio to Study Bridge Funding Options

Dec 12, 2012

The governors of Kentucky and Ohio have announced an agreement to work together to find the money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear agreed Wednesday to create a bi-state management team that will investigate funding options to replace the nearly 50-year-old span. The heavily used bridge carries traffic between the two states over the Ohio River and is considered obsolete.

Preliminary estimates for replacing the bridge run more than $2 billion.

The discussions relating to the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" in Washington have included a number of proposals about ways to raise tax revenue. One suggestion that is drawing concern among some charities would reduce the tax deduction for wealthy Americans to donate money to charitable organizations.


Kentucky's Blue Ribbon Tax Commission has wrapped up its work, but Governor Steve Beshear says the biggest challenge to revising the tax code still remains.

Tax reform is on the tip of the tongue every few years in Frankfort. But historically, not much has been accomplished. Beshear will get the commission's latest recommendations for tax reform this week. And it'll be up to him to convince lawmakers that the panel's work is worth turning into law.

The University of Kentucky's Departments of Forestry and Agricultural Economics recently announced the findings from an economic impact study on the wood and forest industries in the Commonwealth. The study found that Kentucky's forest industries contribute nearly $10 billion to the state's economy each year.

Dr. Jeffrey W. Stringer of the University of Kentucky says about three-fourths of the state's forests remain in private hands, and they continue to grow at a faster rate than they are being removed. The study found that the state's forest industries provide about 2.7 % of the jobs in Kentucky, with more than 24,000 people being employed by the logging and wood/paper industries.

U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are urging Gov. Steve Beshear to seek a federal disaster declaration because of the potential economic consequences of a drought that has led to low water levels on the Mississippi River.

Beshear said Friday he appreciates their concern and that he's closely monitoring the situation.

McConnell and Paul said in a letter to Beshear on Thursday that commercial traffic on the river could "come to a complete halt in coming days" unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes action to increase the water flow.

Pages