FRANKFORT – The two-year budget that the Kentucky House of Representatives approved this week includes $1.57 million in coal-severance projects, $1.3 million from a legal settlement and increases the likelihood that the former Otter Creek Correctional Facility could open again, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said on Friday afternoon.
“Earlier this year, I joined with Floyd County Judge/Executive Ben Hale and a half-dozen other judge/executives and magistrates to make the case that our coal-counties deserved all of the severance tax they generate,” Speaker Stumbo said. “I’m proud that my colleagues agree, so this budget sets a four-year timeline to make that a reality. These counties are struggling, and they have proven they need this extra money to keep basic services going.”
Under the House budget, the transition to increased coal-severance dollars means Floyd County would receive $827,750 in the upcoming fiscal year and $741,880 in the second. This would provide funding for 35 projects, including $400,000 over the biennium for senior citizens services and $4,000 grants ($2,000 per year) for the county’s fire departments and veterans organizations. Prestonsburg would get $100,000 over the two years for acquiring a site and developing it for the North Floyd Fire District; and the cities of Martin, Allen, and Wheelwright would get $60,000 apiece over the two years, as would Floyd County Parks. The county would receive $200,000 for water line repairs and $151,000 for the county roads.
Elsewhere in the House budget, the Attorney General’s office is directed to provide settlements to a variety of organizations as a result of the conclusion of the Purdue Pharma case. That includes $700,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 combined over the next two fiscal years for Hope in the Mountains PLUS $200,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 over the upcoming biennium for Mountain Comprehensive Care Center.
Speaker Stumbo said the House budget would potentially benefit the Otter Creek facility in one of two ways. First, its gives the state’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet the authority to use the former private prison if there is an overflow of prisoners in the state system and litigation is a possibility as a result. Should that occur, the cabinet would recommission Otter Creek and two other former private prisons and transfer up to 2,300 inmates.
Under the other possibility, Otter Creek could be used to house elderly and severely ill inmates who would technically be paroled so they could qualify for federal assistance, including Medicaid. This would alleviate some costs the state currently pays for their care.
The House budget encourages state officials to work with any community, including Wheelwright, that has the proper facilities and is willing to provide medical care for these prisoners. Those convicted of a capital offense or a serious sexual offense would not be eligible.
“Opening Otter Creek back up is a top priority of mine, and I’m hoping we will see that happen during the next two years through either of these avenues,” Speaker Stumbo said. “The people of Wheelwright deserve that and the jobs this would provide.”
The House budget is now in the hands of the state Senate, which is expected to vote on its version next week. Speaker Stumbo and other legislative leaders will then work on a compromise that the full General Assembly can support. A final budget, including a two-year road plan, is scheduled to be sent to the governor no later than mid-April.