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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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July 10, 2018

Ky. Governor Matt Bevin, left, and Atty. General Andy Beshear have been involved in several political brawls since they both won office three years ago.Ky. Governor Matt Bevin, left, and Atty. General Andy Beshear have been involved in several political brawls since they both won office three years ago.

FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin said on WHAS Radio’s Terry Meiners program last August that “the odds are high” that he would seek re-election in 2019 and that he would love the chance to run against Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“It would be my dream,” Bevin said. “… To me, that would be fantastic. He’s not even competent as an attorney general.”

On Monday, Democrat Beshear announced his candidacy for governor, saying it’s time for new leadership in Frankfort “willing to listen and work with people, not bully them.”

Bevin responded with a tweet saying that a Beshear administration promises corruption.

But the governor has still not said whether he will run for re-election next year. His communications staff did not reply to an email Monday seeking a comment about whether he will enter the race.

Compared to his immediate predecessors, Bevin is very late in announcing his intentions and getting a fundraising machine rolling. But he’s not late compared to the schedule he kept four years ago when he jumped into the governor’s race late.

And several Republicans said Monday they expect Bevin will eventually announce for re-election.

“I expect Gov. Bevin to seek re-election and hope he does," said Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor and partner at RunSwitch Public Relations who writes a column for the Courier Journal’s op-ed page. "Beating an incumbent Republican governor in a red state with unemployment lower than any time since Daniel Boone is going to be hard for a Democratic Party that has apparently made abolishing ICE its top priority.”

Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University and vice chairman for the Republican Party’s 2nd Congressional District organization, said, “Until he indicates otherwise, you have to assume Bevin will run next year. He holds all the cards, and the rest of us will find out when he plays one. It may be indecision, but I see no strategic reason for him to announce for governor yet.”

Since Bevin suggested last August that he would likely seek re-election, he has weathered some rough political waters.

A pension bill he proposed last fall proved highly unpopular with public employees — and his Republican colleagues in the legislature. He had a bitter split with Republican Rep. Jeff Hoover after Hoover resigned as House speaker after admitting he sent inappropriate text messages to a female House staff member.

And when the governor made derogatory remarks about teachers who had protested and succeeded in convincing lawmakers to greatly water down the pension bill, he was widely criticized within his own party.

But Jennings and Lasley say they do not see any viable Republican who is likely to challenge Bevin in a primary.

“It’s not out of the question, but I would be surprised if a first tier Republican comes forward” to challenge Bevin, Lasley said.

Some Republicans have suggested that one challenger from within the party could be U.S. Rep. James Comer, of Tompkinsville. Bevin won the Republican nomination for governor in 2015 in a three-way race, edging second-place finisher Comer by a mere 83 votes.

But Michael Gossum, communications director for Comer’s office, said in a statement released Monday, “Congressman Comer is honored to represent the people of the First District in Washington. He currently has no plans to seek the Office of Governor.”

Bevin’s delayed announcement of his political intentions contrasts with his immediate predecessors.

The first official expression of intent by a candidate to run for governor is the filing of paperwork with state campaign finance regulators, which allows the candidate to begin raising money.

But by this point Democrat Steve Beshear, following his election in 2007, and Republican Ernie Fletcher, following his election in 2003, had been raising re-election money for about 10 months. 

Bevin may not need the early fundraising start that Steve Beshear and Fletcher sought. That’s because he largely paid for his 2015 campaign with more than $4 million of his own money, and he may be capable of largely paying for a re-election campaign.

“He self-funded his 2015 race, so you presume he has the ability to do that again," Lasley said. "And whenever he gets into the race, as the incumbent governor he’ll have the ability to raise a lot of money.” 

State Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, said: “Gov. Bevin keeps his own counsel, and I have no firsthand information about what he’ll do. But I believe he will run for re-election. I think he’s done a lot of good, but he realizes that it takes a long time to make change in government, and I suspect he wants to do more.”

By Tom Loftus
Louisville Courier Journal



July 10, 2018

...but Justice owes $2.9 million in back taxes and penalties in Kentucky already


Justice (inset) and his family own dozens of mining companies throughout central Appalachia and owe millions in unpaid property taxes to the Kentucky counties where they operate. Justice (inset) and his family own dozens of mining companies throughout central Appalachia and owe millions in unpaid property taxes to the Kentucky counties where they operate.

PIKEVILLE - Coal companies tied to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced plans Monday to hire 150 employees at three surface mines in Eastern Kentucky.

The mines — two in Pike County and one in Letcher County — have been inactive due to a decline in the coal market, according to a news release from Bluestone Industries, a coal company with ties to the Justice family. The company said it is accepting applications and plans to begin production immediately.

Justice and his family own dozens of mining companies throughout central Appalachia and owe millions in unpaid property taxes to the Kentucky counties where they operate.

The largest outstanding bill is to Knott County, where the Justice-affiliated company Kentucky Fuel owed $1.95 million as of Monday. The company owes about $284,000 to Pike County, according to the county's delinquent tax office, and more than $200,000 to Harlan County, according to Harlan County Clerk Donna Hoskins.

In February, the Herald-Leader found that Justice companies owed a total of $2.9 million across Eastern Kentucky, shorting school systems and local governments in a region where many counties struggle with tight budgets and population loss.

Justice, in an interview Monday with the Herald-Leader, said those companies have the right to dispute the tax bills in some cases, but "we’re not going to walk away from an obligation."

The addition of 150 jobs is welcome news in Eastern Kentucky, which has seen a sharp decline in coal jobs over the past decade.

According to data from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the number of coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky fell from more than 13,600 in 2011 to just over 4,000 in 2017. In the first three months of 2018, that number slid to 3,835.

Pike County, the largest coal producer in the Eastern region, ended the first quarter of 2018 with 921 jobs, slightly more than the county had in the same quarter of 2017, but 18.4 percent less than the last three months of 2017.

Letcher County ended the first quarter of 2018 with just 81 coal jobs.

One of the mines scheduled to reopen is Pike County's Bent Mountain surface mine site, the same mountain where developers plan to build a $150 million solar farm.

The solar project, though, partially depends on Kentucky Fuel completing mine reclamation work at the site.

According to a report by Inside Climate News, Justice reached an agreement with state regulators in 2014 in which he promised to complete reclamation at mine sites throughout Eastern Kentucky, including Bent Mountain.

The company, though, has failed to complete that reclamation work. It has since filed suit against two Kentucky state regulators, claiming they disrupted the reclamation process. That case, which Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet has criticized for being meritless, is ongoing.

Adam Edelen, a former state auditor and one of the solar project's developers, said the re-opening of the mine at Bent Mountain is one of the first steps necessary to move ahead with reclamation.

Part of the reclamation process, Edelen said, required additional mining.

"It’s actually excellent news for my project," Edelen said. "Our enemy on this project … was inactivity."

Justice also said the additional mining will help the company move forward on reclamation.

"The easiest way to finish the reclamation there is to mine your way through the reclamation," Justice said.

Justice, who was elected as a Democrat but has since switched his party affiliation to Republican, also said he is working with President Donald Trump on a larger deal that could breathe new life into Central Appalachia's coal industry.

About a year ago, Justice said he met with Trump in the White House and first proposed a plan to give incentives to utility companies that buy coal from Central and Northern Appalachia. The two "have worked continuously on this" since that meeting, Justice said.

The incentives — Justice proposed $10 per ton of coal bought from Appalachian producers — would help the region compete with Western producers and the natural gas industry.

Justice said the plan is a matter of national security. If the nation becomes completely dependent on natural gas and coal mined in the Western U.S., he said that could make it vulnerable to terrorists who could attack pipelines and coal transportation routes.

"There is nothing, nothing, as important as keeping the Eastern coal fields viable at least for the foreseeable future," Justice said. "We have a real possibility with our president of getting this through, and he can get this through without legislation."

Justice said the plan could be implemented through the Department of Homeland Security, which would not require the approval of Congress.

"If we die, then the eastern power grid is completely dependent on western coal and gas, and my God, that is so dangerous," he said. "I think there’s a real, real chance that this is going to become reality."

By Will Wright
Lexington Herald-Leader

July 9, 2018

National Chamber says that $1.5 billion in Kentucky exports are threatened...

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is launching a campaign against President Donald Trump’s tariffs — and the possibility of an emerging all-out trade war.

The national Chamber says that $1.5 billion in Kentucky exports are threatened and that 539,000 Kentucky jobs are supported by global trade.

When the U.S. imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Canada responded with $12.6 billion in tariffs against American-made products. Additional tariffs on autos and auto parts have pushed the envelope toward a global trade war.

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has been reaching out to legislators on the tariff/trade issue for some time. It was a major part of the discussions in its recent “fly-in” to D.C. for meetings with the area’s legislative delegation.

“We’re deeply concerned about the tariffs,” said Brent Cooper, president and CEO of the local chamber. “As the issue escalates we are hearing grim stories from our manufacturing and logistics sectors. They are painting a serious picture of employment as a result of the tariffs.”

Cooper expresses concern that the impact on NKY jobs could be catastrophic. One manufacturer alone is telling him that 600 jobs are on the line.

“We understand there are inequities in trade that need to be addressed,” Cooper said. “But we need to follow other remedies for dealing with those.

“We want to see the tariffs go away — and return to free trade, period.”

Brent Cooper, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

All of his membership is concerned, he said, though not all agree on the solution.

“The risk to NKY’s economy is profound,” he said. “For every job lost, there is a domino effect of an additional 1.9 jobs impacted.”

More barriers to business are not the answer, Cooper said.

“This shouldn’t be a presidential call. Take decisions back into the hands of Congress.”

Northern Kentucky represents 35 percent of manufacturing jobs in Greater Cincinnati and those manufacturers are “being pummeled,” Cooper said. One local manufacturer told Cooper it is losing over $1.5 million every month, and that’s just one example.

“We have been successful in bringing manufacturing jobs to Northern Kentucky,” Cooper said. “We are concerned that these trade issues will get in the way of our continued success.”

Nearly worse than the tariffs themselves is the continued uncertainty in the marketplace, the idea that there is no sound and reliable policy to count on. That is what is causing immediate concerns, Cooper said.

“We need cooler heads to prevail,” he said.

On Friday the U.S. imposed the first duties on $34 billion in Chinese goods and right away the Chinese fired back, accusing the U.S. of violating World Trade Organization rules and starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date,” reported The Washington Post.

China didn’t specify targets but suggested equal levies on American goods which would include staples like soybeans, corn, pork, and poultry, all of which would impact Kentucky.

Toyota manufacturing in LexingtonToyota manufacturing in LexingtonThe Progressive Farmer reports that soybeans represent 41 percent of the value of U.S. products on China’s retaliatory tariff list. U.S. soybean exports to China have grown to $14 billion in 2017.

Toyota Motor Co. voiced strong opposition to possible tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts, in a 15-page report to the U.S. Department of Commerce, singling out Kentucky’s Toyota Motor Manufacturing as an “exemplar” of U.S. manufacturing.

Toyota operations 10 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and said “137,000 Americans support their families working for Toyota and Toyota and Lexus dealerships.”

The statement called a 25 percent tariff on automotive imports as a tax on consumers and said that the Toyota Camry, made in Georgetown and the best-selling car in America, would face $1800 in increased costs.

GM also filed a report to the Department of Commerce objecting to the tariffs.


See this story on the U.S. Chamber’s website: Workers, Farmers, Families, and Business are All Losers in a Trade War.