Sen. Smith: coal severance deficit threatens coal counties

By Matthew Rand | 

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - With coal revenues still low in the Commonwealth, state lawmakers are predicting a major deficit in coal severance dollars. A meeting was held today in Hazard to discuss options for coal-producing counties.

Senator Brandon Smith and Representative Fitz Steele say coal severance receipts are $88 million short of projections.

"Obviously these things are tremendously short," said Smith. "A lot of that stuff's because the numbers that we were given originally aren't true, and a lot of that's because the coal companies have shut down. There's less coal on the market so the sales are down."

According to Smith, coal-producing counties are looking at cutbacks of 60 percent or more for coal severance projects.

"We do obviously want the larger share to come back to this region, and right now we feel like that is being taken, that we have the smallest piece of the pie and they're going to take all of the shortfalls out of that. That's just unacceptable," the senator said.

With the news of such a massive deficit in coal severance funding, county judge-executives we talked to say they're planning for the worst, and expect hard times to come.

"We have been told that for the past few years, couple of years that lean times were coming," said Floyd County Judge-Executive R.D. "Doc" Marshall.

"I'm concerned about everyone. It's going to hit us hard," said Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble. "Like I said, Perry County, we're in good shape, but still with this loss of funds it's going to cut projects."

Smith says he plans to campaign for assistance for coal counties when the General Assembly convenes in January.

We tried to check Senator Smith's figures with the state budget director's office, but they could not be reached for comment.

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