Thursday, February 26, 2015

Senate approves SOAR funding legislation

Democratic Floor Leader Jones calls for all coal severance revenue to be returned to coal producing counties
FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate today approved legislation to set up a funding mechanism to finance projects of the Support One Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative. The Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund (KARDF) will receive money from coal severance tax and be administered by the Department for Local Government. KARDF will oversee grants for economic diversification and job creation for the region.
Voicing his support for Senate Bill 168 to spur economic development in Eastern Kentucky, Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, called for 100 percent of coal severance revenue to be returned to the coal producing counties. He noted the decline in coal severance tax receipts and the much-needed uses for that revenue in the coal counties.
In his floor speech, Leader Jones said that SOAR is truly a bi-partisan initiative and he commended Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman Hal Rogers for coming together to recognize the needs in Eastern Kentucky.
“This bill sets the framework to ensure that the SOAR initiative is successful,” said Leader Jones.
Aware of the difficulties facing the region including the hardships resulting from restructuring in the coal industry, SOAR’s mission is to expand job creation, enhance regional opportunity, innovation and identity, improve the quality of life and support all those working to achieve these goals in AppalachianKentucky.
SB 168 not only creates the funding mechanism, KARDF, but identifies the purposes for which money from the fund may be used and provides an application process.
Leader Jones said SB 168 is a work in progress and is glad to see the SOAR initiative moving forward.
SB 168 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration