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.

U.S. Parks Service

The superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park says she's prepared to carry out the first cuts that would take place under sequestration. If Congress and the White House don't work out a deal by Friday, all national parks have been instructed to prepare for five-percent budget reductions.

"Those measures would include a variety of things, including not filling some permanent positions, such as the park electrician, and a variety of other seasonal positions," Sarah Craighead told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

The Barren County native says the first change the public would experience if sequestration happens would be a delay in the opening of Houchen's Ferry, which had been scheduled for March 10th. The ferry shuttles vehicles across the Green River near Brownsville.

Craighead says hiring will be delayed for at least 11 seasonal positions unless a deal to end the sequester happens soon. Some of those seasonal positions would be for cave guides this summer. The Grand Avenue and Snowball cave tours would also end unless a deal is reached.

About 7,000 civilian workers at Fort Knox will be affected if federal cuts in defense spending take effect next Friday.

The News-Enterprise reports the workers would be furloughed one day each week for up to 22 weeks and lose about 20 percent of their pay.

Derek Avey, a civilian Fort Knox Garrison employee, says his family has made plans just in case.

"We'll make car payments and mortgage payments and those things, but going out to eat or catching a movie we may not do as often as we used to," the Elizabethtown resident said.

Stumbo: No Kentucky Tax Overhaul Coming This Session

Feb 19, 2013

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he doesn't expect a tax reform package to be brought up for a vote in the current legislative session.

Stumbo told reporters Tuesday that such a package doesn't have the 60 votes necessary to pass in the House.

A special commission appointed by the governor proposed reforms that could generate about $690 million a year in additional revenue.

Stumbo said one of the proposals made by the commission could surface in days ahead as a method of shoring up Kentucky's weakening pension system for government retirees. That proposal calls for raising the cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack, which could generate $100 million for the pension system.

Daviess County Lawmaker Wants to Cap Kentucky's Debt

Feb 15, 2013
Kentucky LRC

Legislation to bar state General Fund debt from exceeding 6% has been approved by the full Senate. Republican Senator Joe Bowen of Owensboro has been pushing the measure since last year when a similar measure passed the Senate but died in the House.

Bowen said Kentucky now has $6.3 billion in debt and that, he says, translates to $14,589 in debt for every man, woman and child in Kentucky.

Bowen said lawmakers need to do the right thing by putting a limit on the legislature's credit card. The bill now goes to the House where it faces a shaky future.

Despite the end of the economic recession and a growth in state revenue, Kentucky’s budget will remain tight. Former Budget Director, now Cabinet Secretary Mary Lassiter will address a joint House and Senate budget committee Tuesday.

She is expected to say state programs and agencies should not expect cuts in recent years to be restored in the next State budget.  Lassiter tells the Courier-Journal, “There’s no money for anything.” 

Lassiter says any new revenue in the state budget passed in 2014 budget will be consumed by additional spending required for pensions, Medicaid, and replacing one-time funds being spent on recurring needs in the current budget.  She declined to say if the tight long-term revenue outlook will also be the theme of the State of the Commonwealth address Gov. Steve Beshear is to deliver Wednesday night.

A recently-released poll shows that a majority of Kentuckians support expanded gambling.

In the Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, 60 percent of those polled said they support expansion. For the first time, a majority Eastern Kentucky resident support gambling. 

The support is for a so-called clean gambling bill, which would not include any protections for horse racing tracks.

That's the approach Governor Steve Beshear is planning for his next gambling push. But opponents of gambling say any potential bill will fail because supporters can’t choose a single strategy. Also, only one track, Churchill Downs, has endorsed Beshear's plan.