Economy

Kentucky Lawmakers Might Consider Taxing Electric, CNG Powered Vehicles

Jun 6, 2013

Kentucky lawmakers could soon take up the issue of taxing electric and compressed natural gas vehicles, in an effort to bolster a flagging road and bridge maintenance fund.

Kentucky House Transportation Committee Chairman Hubert Collins says alternatives are already being discussed in other states and at the federal level. Collins says with gas tax revenue in decline, Kentucky has to do something to make sure there’s adequate funding for transportation infrastructure.

“I think we see that U.P.S. bought something like 1,700 new vehicles which will be the compressed natural gas variety, and that will again take a toll (on Kentucky’s gas tax receipts)," said Rep. Collins.

Despite the concerns from lawmakers, Kentucky’s gasoline tax will rise 2.4 cents next month to a little over 32 cents a gallon—something that could generate $900 million in new revenue over the next fiscal year. The hike comes as a result of a tax increase state lawmakers wrote into law more than 30 years ago.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 15,000 on Tuesday for the first time in its history.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Kevin Willis

A new report says the economic impact of tourism in Kentucky grew again last year.

The study reports a $12 billion impact for tourism last year.  That's up about four and a half percent from the previous year. In addition, the report credits tourism for 174,000 jobs and $2.7 billion in wages.

In a statement, tourism officials give partial credit to growth of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The series of distilleries has drawn steady interest since it's inception in 1999, but broke an attendance record last year, drawing over half a million visitors.

April 18th is National Tax Freedom Day, the point at which Americans will have earned enough money to pay this year's tax obligations at the local, state, and federal levels.  Elizabeth Malm is an economist with the Washington-based Tax Foundation.  She says Americans this year will work five days later than in 2012 to pay all their taxes.

There were just 88,000 jobs added to private and public payrolls in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.

But the nation's jobless rate still edged down to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. That dip wasn't for a good reason, though: Nearly half a million fewer people were participating in the labor force. That smaller pool meant the jobless rate could tick down even as job growth was weak.

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index broke new ground today, closing at 1,569, an all-time high that erased the record set on Oct. 9, 2007.

The S&P joins the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which broke its 2007 record earlier this month.

Both indices have now recovered all the losses they suffered during the Great Recession.

One in five Kentuckians and Tennesseans currently receives food stamps through a federal assistance program. Nationally, the number of food stamp recipients has increased 70% since 2008.

Twenty-percent of Kentucky residents receive help through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or SNAP--which provides food stamp benefits for the needy. In Tennessee, 21% of residents are on the program, along with 14% of Indiana residents.

Analysts agree that the biggest reason for the increasing numbers on assistance is the poor job market and national increase in poverty.

But a report in The Wall Street Journal also points out that states are able to ease income tests for would-be participants, allowing those with relatively higher incomes and savings to take part in the program. As of December of 2012, a record 47.8 million Americans received benefits through SNAP.

The Kentucky Lottery Corporation is moving ahead with a new Keno game and online lottery sales, in hopes the games will be profitable.

The lottery board hopes to generate $85 million dollars a year with the new games by 2023.

State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach spearheaded the effort to expand to Keno and online sales as a way to help generate more revenue for the state. He says the implementation will take time, but money should start coming in shortly afterward.

"So you're probably not going to see anything of any significance until 2014. It takes a little while."

State House Democrats have said additional lottery revenues could pay for the state's underfunded pension system. Finding a way to fund pension reforms has been a major cause of disagreement in Frankfort this year.

No Breakthroughs Yet on Kentucky Pension Reform

Mar 8, 2013

Gov. Steve Beshear has concluded a meeting with a bipartisan group of legislative leaders without breaking an impasse on pension reform legislation.

The Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate have been at loggerheads on how to shore up the financially troubled pension plans for state and local government retirees.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo called the Friday morning meeting a first step. He's said everyone involved wants to resolve the issue now to avoid the cost of a special legislative session later.

Among the major sticking points: A Senate proposal to create a 401(k)-like retirement plan for new employees and a House proposal to use money from the lottery and horse tracks to boost the state's yearly pension contribution.

On the eve of automatic military budget cuts, Fort Campbell's garrison commander said the installation's 8,000 civilian employees could face up to 22 unpaid days off this year.

Col. David L. "Buck" Dellinger told reporters Thursday that Fort Campbell's leaders are making budget decisions sometimes on an hourly basis to prepare for $55 million in budget cuts scheduled to take effect on Friday.

The installation in southern Kentucky is hosting town hall meetings in the coming days with staff and soldiers.

Dellinger said they have to balance providing training for thousands of soldiers who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan this year, while finding savings in areas like civilian employee salaries, maintenance and other operating costs.

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