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County leaders question coal severance spending

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

They say it is unfair spending that is hurting mountain counties.

Some Eastern Kentucky leaders are upset over multi-county coal severance tax money that the legislature agreed to spend on Rupp Arena renovations in Lexington.

Recently many county leaders have been talking budgets and trying to figure out how they can survive.

"We struggled last budget. We've struggled this budget. Over $3 million we've had to cut. Cut people off, and that's not just cutting people off that is a human being and a family out there. That is tough to have to do," said Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford.

With coal severance tax revenue declining as more mines shut down they say it is getting even harder.

Now many of those mountain county leaders are angry because some of what is left of that coal severance money was allotted for Rupp Arena in Lexington.

"How do you think a county judge executive feels in the coal fields when we're out here struggling to make the ends meet and have to cut people off. This is ridiculous," said Rutherford.

County leaders in many mountain counties like Pike County say the problem to them is that coal severance money should not be going to a county or city that does not produce coal.

A statement from House Speaker Greg Stumbo said, "Though Rupp is not in the coal fields, many believe it plays an important role in the state because of the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball program, and there is a strong alumni support in our region as well."

Some are not buying it.

"We love the cats! Heck I love the Kentucky Wildcats. But how many people, how many people out here in this county can go to a ball game drawing unemployment? Thousands of miners cut off," said Rutherford.

Now many are asking for policy changes.

Speaker Stumbo's statement also said, "because of the nature of the Multi-County Fund, there was accumulation of some additional money. We agreed as a conference committee -- House and Senate leaders, Republicans and Democrats -- that some money was needed for this project. Because of shortfalls, there was no other pot of money we could find."

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