For years the coal-producing counties of Kentucky have questioned coal severance monies being dispersed throughout the Commonwealth. Now more than ever the fact that only half of the severance returns to the source is of great concern to the people of this area.
Last November, Rep. Fitz Steele came to my office and let me know he was pre-filing a bill that called for 100 percent of the severance funds to be divided among the counties that produce the coal. This was an idea that I agreed with and felt was long overdue.
When Rep. Steele filed House Bill 38, he had one co-sponsor, Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville. The leadership of the House would not allow the bill to be heard before the Appropriation and Revenue Committee. Had it passed, Sen. Brandon Smith was anxiously awaiting to usher the bill through the Senate. Both the representative and senator realize the importance of severance monies.
It is with regret that our area is experiencing such tough economic times, with more and more miners out of work and mines without permits we hang in a questionable future. From City Hall it has become a rarity to hear a train passing through the rail yard. Our efforts at diversification into the woods product industry failed when the housing market crashed.
As we budget with one-tenth of the funds available last year, I question how we can continue to provide services and maintain infrastructure for our citizens. As the coalfields continue to suffer is it hard to justify the outflow of a vital source of funds.