Special session addresses budget, incentives

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By Bryan Marshall

Legislators adopted three of four proposals addressed in an eight-day special session called by Gov. Steve Beshear.


The session, which began June 15 and ended June 24, cost $480,000 in taxpayer’s money.

Lawmakers addressed a $1 billion shortfall for the coming year, while maintaining funding for the basic education formula and higher education, key areas of health care and public safety, including state police, public defenders and prosecutors and local jail support.

They also adopted the governor’s economic incentives plan that, among several things, hopes to attract a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to Kentucky Speedway.

Finally, legislators created funding mechanisms for mega-transportation projects such as bridges in Louisville and Western Kentucky.

One proposal that did not pass was a law that would allow slot machines to be placed in the state’s horse race tracks to help the struggling horse industry.

Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, voted for the proposal as it narrowly passed in the House chambers.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, did not have an opportunity to vote for the measure as it was shot down in a committee before heading to the full senate.

The Grant County News asked the two local legislators about their thoughts on the special session.

Do you think this will be the last time slot machines at the race tracks will be discussed?

Adams: “I think it will come up again because of the fact that, if we don’t find another way to help the horse industry, things will get worse. Certainly, if Ohio decides to put slots in their tracks, it will be even worse for Kentucky tracks. Right now, we have West Virginia, Indiana and Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio is talking about it. I don’t know if it will have any better chance of passing or not. You never know.”

Thayer: “I’m sure it won’t be the last we hear of this. The horse industry is encountering much difficulty. There are those who believe the only solution is to have slots at the tracks. So, I’m sure it will come up again next year.”

Was the approved budget proposal enough to help the state out of financial trouble?

Adams: “Oh no. It’s a band-aid. It will get us through the first year, the year that’s left on the biennium. But in 2010, we’re going to have problems again when it comes to balancing the budget. This time, we were able to get by without doing any severe cuts because of the federal stimulus money. We won’t have the luxury of having that come 2010 when the regular budget session comes.”

Thayer: “It helped. I certainly think we could take more decisive action in dealing with the spending side of things, but there is not a willingness to do that. This does give the governor the ability to manage the budget. We basically did what he asked us to do with a few minor changes.”

Do you think the special session was worth the taxpayer’s money?

Adams: “It was one of those things where we had to do something about the budget. The budget shortfall was more than what the governor can handle by himself.

I was pleased with the fact that we could get the budget balanced, so we could move forward. I was pleased that the bill for incentives for (Kentucky Speedway) was passed. It will mean a lot to my district, as well as the state of Kentucky, if we get a NASCAR Cup race. I’m sure all the motels, restaurants and service stations will be filled to capacity if we get a Cup race. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get something to help the horse industry because I think once it’s depleted it will be difficult to get us back where we have been. I’ve had a lot of important legislation in my 17 years. It doesn’t always get passed the first time.”

Thayer: “I would have rather we waited until January to deal with some of these issues, but the governor is the one who can call us into session and he did. So, while we were down there I think we were obligated to try to do good work on behalf of the taxpayers. I’m most enthused about the incentives bill that will hopefully attract a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway and help retain and create jobs in other employment sectors throughout Kentucky.”