FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Wednesday he
intends to call lawmakers into special session on July 5.
The governor is urging the lawmakers to approve financial
incentives to help the state attract companies that specialize in
converting coal to liquid fuels.
"The primary focus of the call will be energy," Fletcher said
in a letter to legislators. "I urge you to express your desire to
pursue this extraordinary opportunity and to support this
legislation in a special session."
Fletcher, trying to build his case for the special session,
provided lawmakers with letters from four companies that say
Kentucky needs to offer incentives in order to compete with other
Peabody Energy Corp. is considering building a coal conversion
plant in Kentucky that could cost up to $3 billion and bring up to
800 full-time jobs, according to one of the letters released late
Peabody wants to decide this summer where to build the plant,
and Kentucky would need to pass financial incentives to stay in the
running, according to a letter from Rick Bowen, Peabody's president
of generation and Btu conversion.
"Although it would be premature for us to commit to locating
this facility in Kentucky, if the commonwealth were to offer these
financial incentives, it is unlikely that we could convince our
investors to site this project in Kentucky without them," Bowen
said in the letter.
Legislative leaders in the House and Senate, however, have not
agreed on whether such a session would be necessary now or whether
the proposed legislation could wait until early next year when the
legislature is scheduled to reconvene. House Speaker Jody Richards,
D-Bowling Green, said he's not convinced the matter is so urgent
that it requires a special session.
Given the $60,000-a-day cost of a legislative session, Richards
said it may be best to wait until lawmakers return in January to
deal with the incentives.
"Our members are very skeptical," Richards said. "It does
smack of politics."
Richards said the governor should have ensured that House and
Senate lawmakers had tentatively agreed on incentives before he
decided to call lawmakers into session.
"I've seen those kinds of sessions before, and they often end
in disaster," Richards said.
State Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Wednesday he
believes House and Senate lawmakers do agree on the need for the
House lawmakers meeting in northern Kentucky on Wednesday were
disappointed by Fletcher's announcement, said state Rep. Rob
Wilkey, D-Scottsville, .
"I think it's an abuse of power and an abuse of the Kentucky
taxpayer if he does it," said Wilkey, the House majority whip.
"It's a train wreck waiting to happen."
A plan outlined at a state energy subcommittee last week would
offer about $315 million in tax incentives to a plant that met
Smaller incentives would be offered to smaller plants, but the
tax breaks would be based on performance. The plan would give the
incentives over 25 years to a $2.5 billion coal-to-liquid plant.
"To seize this historic opportunity, legislative action is
urgently needed," Fletcher said in the letter.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)