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House speaker promotes construction projects

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo said
Thursday he hopes a jobs-creation effort based on construction
projects can be part of the state budget proposal being crafted by
House leaders.
To help stimulate the economy, House leadership may look to
raise the debt level beyond what Gov. Steve Beshear proposed to pay
for construction projects.
"We believe that a jobs bill is important in this economy to
get Kentuckians back to work," Stumbo told reporters following a
closed-door meeting of House Democrats. "We're trying very hard to
craft a piece of our budget around a jobs proposal."
In his budget plan submitted in January, Beshear proposed $1.5
billion in general fund bonds for construction projects that he
said will create jobs for Kentuckians at a time when the state is
struggling from high unemployment.
Kentucky's unemployment rate was 10.7 percent in December,
compared with 7.6 percent a year earlier and 5.5 percent in
December 2007.
Stumbo said House leaders are looking at a broad range of
construction projects on roads, schools, sewers, water distribution
and "other types of unmet building needs."
House leaders said it's an ideal time to pursue construction
projects.
"Contractors are hungry and they want work," said House
Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook. He said interest
rates for bonds are low, which would make it more affordable for
the state to borrow money.
House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, a Jamestown Republican,
said there's a need for school construction. But said he wanted to
see more details before committing to a plan.
"We've got to see exactly how many they want to do, how we're
going to pay for it, what the revenue source is," Hoover said in
an interview.
Hoover expressed concerns about another proposal floated by
House Democratic leaders - one that could suspend some tax
exemptions temporarily to help balance the next budget. Hoover said
such a move could inflict more pain on businesses struggling from
the economic downturn.
One proposal being floated would temporarily suspend tax
write-offs for businesses reporting losses. Those businesses would
still be able to eventually claim those losses for tax purposes.
The proposal could generate an estimated $184 million over two
years.
"If we suspend those exemptions, it will have a significant
impact, I think, on their cash flow," Hoover said.
House Democratic leaders have rolled out proposed budget cuts
and other steps to try to plug a shortfall exceeding $1 billion for
the next two-year state budget cycle, which starts July 1. The
steep economic downturn has taken a toll on state revenue
collections.
The House leaders hope to finish work in the coming days on
their budget plan.
House leaders have been looking to replace $780 million in new
revenue that Beshear assumed in his budget from his support of
expanded gambling in Kentucky. Beshear's proposal to allow video
slot machines at race tracks has been a non-starter in the
legislative session.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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