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Special Session 2009 staggers to a close
They're going home soon. But never fear, the General Assembly will return.
The 2009 Special Session is coming to a close. After 8 days at $300K a day, our representatives will soon be heading for home. The Speaker’s Office said the House is in recess at this writing (1:00 CDT) but will soon adjourn sine die.
The Legislature agreed on tax breaks for vehicle owners, military personnel, building bridges. Commonwealth attorneys will get some more $$. UK gets to repair Commonwealth Stadium and build a new baseball stadium.  No slots. No school building funding. The Senate killed the bill in a committee meeting after House members voted to pass it.
Here’s the House version of what happened:
House votes to balance budget, create jobs, and lower taxes on military pay
Frankfort – Classroom funding will be protected, Kentucky companies will have further incentive to expand, our men and women in uniform will get much-deserved tax relief, and large bridge projects will now be able to move forward under legislation strongly supported today in the state House of Representatives.
            “This short special session has a long list of accomplishments, and every Kentuckian will benefit,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.  “It will move the state forward in numerous ways, and speed up our recovery during these trying economic times.  I am proud of the leadership the House has shown, and of the way both the House and Senate came together in difficult times.”
            The bills sent to Governor Steve Beshear today for his signature will do such things as:
*          Overcome the billion-dollar shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.  “This largely follows the governor’s plan, which shields classroom funding, our universities and critical health programs like Medicaid from cuts.  We also made sure, though, that state employees will not have to forfeit any holiday pay as had been proposed,” said House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.
*          Recognize the sacrifice of those serving in the military by exempting their active-duty military pay from the state income tax.  “The House made this a priority this legislative session, because our military families deserve it for all they have done for us,” said House Majority Caucus Chairman Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville.  “Kentucky now will be an even more inviting place for them to live, especially those who may have considered other states.”  This exemption complements one already in place for pay earned in a combat zone, and it will apply to those serving in the National Guard and the Reserves.
*          Establish a funding mechanism for road projects costing at least $500 million.  “This is landmark legislation that ensures these projects will be built in a timely manner while protecting our Road Fund,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville.  “The proposed Louisville bridges would have been severely hampered if we did not pass this, and other large projects like I-69 in Western Kentucky would have also been held up.”  Under the legislation, Kentucky will create a new authority that, with state and local input, will issue the bonds for “mega” projects and then serve as the conduit to pay them off.
*          Implement a new vehicle trade-in tax credit.  “The vast majority of states, including every one surrounding us but Virginia, allow people to count the value of their trade-in when it comes time to pay taxes on the new vehicle they are buying,” said House Majority Whip John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty.  “This one measure alone should spur auto sales in Kentucky, and since we are the third-largest producer of vehicles in the nation, this will help not just car-buying families but also those who work in our auto assembly and parts factories as well.”
*          Create Kentucky’s economic stimulus plan.  “This far-ranging package does such things as provide incentives to Kentucky-based companies to re-tool and re-train in order to stay competitive and not have to leave Kentucky to realize these benefits,” said state Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Philpot, who sponsored this legislation in the House.  “This law will also help us bring a NASCAR Sprint Cup race to the Kentucky Speedway and bring the Breeders’ Cup to Churchill Downs.  Additionally, it will make Kentucky more attractive to the film and television industry, and it will clear the way for us to compete for a next-generation battery plant in Hardin County that would put Kentucky at the forefront of an industry that could single-handedly reduce our independence on foreign oil.”
                  Rep. Thompson also noted the bill includes a boost to the housing industry, by giving current homeowners a strong incentive over the next year to buy a new home.  “First-time home buyers already receive substantial credits from the federal government, so this would complement that program for homeowners thinking about moving,” he said.  “This incentive should help our home construction industry clear out inventory and get people back to work.”
                  In addition, Speaker Pro Tem Clark noted the legislation gives the Jefferson Community and Technical College the authority to use its own money to buy property that is next to its downtown Louisville campus.
                  The University of Kentucky, meanwhile, would have authorization to continue expanding its hospital and to allow private funding for renovating Commonwealth Stadium and to construct a new baseball stadium.
            “By all indications, 2009 will forever be seen as a watershed year for Kentucky, based on what the legislature was able to do during the past two weeks and in the legislative session earlier this year,” House Speaker Stumbo said.  “These laws will move the state forward in ways that did not even seem possible just six months ago.  The end result is stronger schools and universities; proper care for our neediest citizens; well-deserved benefits for our soldiers, small businesses and new-car buyers; and a way forward to make our highway system the envy of the nation.  There are still plenty of challenges ahead, certainly for our signature horse industry, but if we can continue working together, I am confident even better days are ahead.”

And now it's the Governor's turn: 
Gov. Beshear: Session produced major accomplishments, jobs will be saved and created, hundreds of millions invested
Deep concerns still loom for horses, budget
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 24, 2009)—Gov. Steve Beshear today said the Special Session produced significant accomplishments that will save and create thousands of jobs and stimulate hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and economic growth.
However, even with the accomplishments, the Governor said he was disappointed that the long-term fix he and Speaker Greg Stumbo proposed for the horse industry wasn’t adopted and that millions of dollars in additional spending added by the state legislature will impose deeper cuts throughout state government.
“I am pleased to tell the people of Kentucky that I will sign legislation that balances our budget for the upcoming year and that creates significant new investments for our people in jobs, growth and economic revitalization – at a time when our state needs it the most,” Gov. Beshear said today at the conclusion of the Special Session he called more than a week ago.
Gov. Beshear told reporters that the four major issues on the agenda for the Special Session were as substantive a list of priorities as a regular session that lasts three months. Yet, in the matter of a little more than a week, the legislature largely adopted three of the four proposals, including:
  • Addressing a $1 billion shortfall for the coming year, while maintaining funding for the basic education formula and higher education, key areas of health care and public safety, including state police, public defenders and prosecutors and local jail support;
  • Adopting the Governor’s economic incentives plan to modernize the state’s incentives programs by investing more in local businesses, attracting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to Kentucky, recruiting more films and documentaries to the Commonwealth and help in luring as many as 2,000 jobs to Hardin County through the creation of a advanced battery manufacturing facility; and
  • Enacting legislation to create funding mechanisms for mega-transportation projects such as the bridges in Louisville and Western Kentucky. The funding authorities created will also free up revenues and bonding capacity for transportation projects throughout Kentucky.
“These are undeniable successes. We came here with big goals. We accomplished three of four of them in a span of a little more than a week,” Gov. Beshear said. “Few other states, if any, can lay claim to making such critical investments during the most difficult recession in our lifetimes. But the fact that we came together – working with the leadership in the House and Senate – demonstrates what we can do when we put aside partisanship and rivalry for progress and results. That’s what we have done in this session.”
Gov. Beshear, though, conceded that even as large as the accomplishments were, there were also, inevitably, disappointments and concerns.
Most significantly, the Governor said the legislature’s decision to reject a comprehensive approach to helping the horse industry through limited, expanded gaming would further imperil Kentucky’s signature business.
“I respect those who express their sincere opposition to gaming … I respect those views, but I respectfully disagree,” the Governor said. “Creating additional taxes or, as one Senator suggested, pulling millions of dollars out of a struggling General Fund, was not a prudent course to take … With all due respect, you don’t need a band-aid when the patient is dying.”
Gov. Beshear said it would take time to evaluate the next steps that should be taken to assist the industry, but he said he remains “committed to finding answers.”
Moreover, the Governor said the legislature added millions and millions of dollars in additional spending to the budget, even as they agreed with his key priorities of education, health care and public safety.
Those additions – including tax credit proposals for cars and new home purchases along with active military income tax exemptions – are all worthwhile and deserving of support, Gov. Beshear said. However, the result will be significantly deeper cuts in much of state government, beyond the 2.6 percent cut for most state agencies that the Governor proposed in his budget plan.
“Those decisions today will have profound consequences tomorrow,” he said. “And there should be no doubt of that among everyone involved in crafting this budget revision.”
Nevertheless, even with concerns that the state will have to grapple with in the coming months, Gov. Beshear said no one should lose sight of the important work done in collaboration with the General Assembly.
“We must in the weeks and months ahead be sure, as leaders in both branches and in both parties, that we are committed to prudent judgments when we are spending the dollars with which we are entrusted,” he said. “My pledge, as Governor, is to continue working day and night to meet those goals of survival for our people and investment for our future. We have made progress. But it is clear we still have much work to do.”

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