Monday, February 1, 2016

Jones bill to return 100 percent of coal severance revenue to coal producing counties gaining support

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones’ legislation to require 100 percent of revenue from the coal severance tax return to Kentucky’s coal producing counties is gaining support in the Kentucky State Senate.  Senator Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, has signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill Jones says would help create jobs and boost the economy in the state’s coal producing counties.

“This is not a democrat or republican issue,” said Jones, D-Pikeville.  “This is a jobs issue.  Senator Girdler and I agree that the bill must be amended to limit its use for economic development to create jobs.”

Under Senate Bill 21, 100 percent of coal severance revenues would be distributed among the coal-producing counties on the basis of the tax collected on coal severed or processed in each respective county.
The coal severance tax is approximately five percent levied on every ton of coal mined in Kentucky.

In the past, 50 percent of revenue from the coal severance tax has been prorated for expenditures in coal producing and coal affected counties. However, with the declining tax receipts, Jones said all the tax revenue need to go to these counties to allow them to focus on creating jobs – the original intent of the tax.

“The coal severance revenue should be allocated for improvements to the infrastructures to better equip these counties to attract new business and industry,” he said. “Better roads and bridges, modern water and sewer lines/facilities, and enhanced public safety are components necessary for developing an area and making it a viable place for new businesses and industry to locate. We need them to come to eastern Kentucky and we need them to bring more jobs. Jobs are the lifeblood of our community’s success and we need to create more of them to address the deficiency in our job market.”

Jones’ legislation mandates that all the revenue return to the coal producing counties.

“With mining communities suffering, we must take a more aggressive stance in creating new jobs,” said Jones, who represents the 31st district that includes Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan and Pike counties. “As a lifelong resident of a coal-producing region, this Pike Countian can tell you unequivocally that we cannot afford to lose any more jobs in our coal producing counties. Now, perhaps more than ever, all the coal severance tax revenue needs to return to the counties from where it generated. And, truthfully, this legislation is long overdue.”

Jones said that he is pleased that several county judge executives from the coal producing counties support the legislation and agree on its impact and importance in creating more jobs.
Senator Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, signed on as a co-sponsor when Jones filed the bill in October.

SB 21 will be considered during the 2016 legislative session.