FRANKFORT – Coal counties would receive a larger share of coal severance tax money under legislation filed for action in the Kentucky General Assembly by state Rep. Chris Harris of Forest Hills.
House Bill 266 would increase the percentage of coal severance tax dollars returned to coal counties from 50 percent to 70 percent. Currently, these funds are divided 50-50 between the state and coal counties. The legislation was referred to the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee on January 19.
Of the 70 percent allocated to coal counties under Rep. Harris’ legislation, 35 percent would be allocated to a fund that helps counties provide essential services – such as sanitation, fire protection 911 call centers and ambulances – with the other 35 percent used to help finance water, wastewater and other economic development projects.
“This legislation will help deal with the crisis far too many counties in our region are facing because of declining coal receipts,” Rep. Harris said. “Increasing the portion of funds coal counties receive is essential to ensuring we have the services, and the quality of life, that the people of our region deserve.”
If enacted, the legislation carries an emergency clause that would allow its provisions to be enforced immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature.
Richard Tanner, executive director of the Kentucky Coal and Mineral County Coalition, said severance tax money has declined sharply in recent months, leaving “counties with holes in their budgets that they are having to fill with cuts, layoffs and the consideration of new taxes.”
“This legislation would provide some much-needed relief to those counties that are struggling due to the downturn in the state’s coal production,” Tanner said. “Right now, many of those counties are in the midst of a crisis just to provide essential services.”
Rep. Harris represents the 93rd House District in Martin and Pike counties. Constituents with questions or concerns are encouraged to contact Rep. Harris at [email protected] by calling the Legislative Message Hotline at 1-800-372-7181.