FRANKFORT – State Representatives Fitz Steele and Leslie Combs pre-filed legislation last week that would return all coal-severance tax dollars to the counties that actually produce the coal.
“Just this week, we saw where these taxes dropped more than a fifth during last fiscal year, and with the president’s announcement a few weeks ago that even more coal-killing regulations are on the way, this figure is all but guaranteed to drop even more,” said Rep. Steele, D-Hazard, the bill’s principle sponsor. “Our coal counties are hurting, and if they are going to survive, they need this money. They’ve certainly earned it.”
“While no one is questioning the value of the many programs funded by coal-severance dollars, the truth is that by the time the coal counties get their share, the flow of money has dwindled to a trickle,” said Rep. Combs, D-Pikeville, the prime co-sponsor. “While we hope otherwise, it appears that we’re entering a new age when it comes to coal, and we need all of this revenue to help us make that transition.”
Both legislators were the sole sponsors of a similar bill during this year’s legislative session, but said that it will be more relevant next year, when the General Assembly adopts the state’s two-year budget.
According to budget officials, coal severance revenue declined from $298.3 million in the 2012 fiscal year to $230.5 million in 2013 – a 22.7 percent decline.
Under current law, several programs are funded “off the top,” and what remains is then split equally between the state and the coal counties. A complex formula then dictates how the local portion is budgeted for individual coal counties and many other programs.
“The coal counties have more than paid their fair share over the 40 years of the coal-severance program, so the time has come to tip that balance the other way,” Rep. Steele said. “No one can question the need, and we have the vision on what should be done. All we need is a way to pay for it, and Leslie’s and my bill provides the way. It’s time has come.”
The General Assembly will consider the legislation during the 2014 Regular Session, which begins in January. Here is a link to the pre-filed bill: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/14rs/HB15.htm