A new honors college and international center at WKU and renovations to the University of Kentucky's football stadium and the University of Louisville are among the projects that will benefit from a bipartisan General Assembly agreement is allowing state universities to use their own ability to issue bonds for capital projects.
The soon-to-be approved projects were rejected during 2012 budget negotiations, but will be revived once lawmakers pass an authorization bill, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.
The plan allows for $363-million in renovation and construction projects at six of Kentucky's eight state universities.
Stumbo says the projects were rejected because of election-year politics — because House lawmakers are elected in even-numbered years — and secondly because universities made unreasonable bonding requests.
And while many projects were rejected last year, the newly agreed upon ones are ready to start immediately.
“We had asked at the end of the last session to bring us a realistic list, what can you accomplish, what is shovel ready, what do you have the funding sources identified for, what can you accomplish in this next year,” Stumbo says.
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.
Despite progress toward building a state-run health insurance exchange in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear will likely have to re-issue an executive order to keep it alive.
Beshear issued an order creating the exchange earlier this year, after the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. And it’s a goal of state health officials to get the exchange protected under a law, rather than an executive order.
But Republican State Senator Tom Buford says his colleagues aren’t likely to support an exchange law.
“Probably not, in my opinion, we will probably allow the Governor to re-order the executive order again," said Buford.
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.