Largest “signature” TIF projects still in holding patterns

Last year, one of the top topics of conversation in Owensboro and Daviess County was the proposed Gateway Commons “signature” tax increment financing proposal for an expansive development off of Kentucky 54. 

The Owensboro project fell by the wayside after failing to meet state approval, but even those other “signature” TIF projects that garnered state support have been moving forward slowly, if they are moving at all. 

The unsuccessful $321 million project proposal in Owensboro would have used public tax dollars to build an arena, a convention center and other public infrastructure needs for the 265-acre development that would have also included retail, commercial and residential space. 

Under tax increment financing, tax dollars generated within a new development can be funneled back to the developer to cover construction costs of public amenities. 

The project as designed died when the state Tax Increment Financing Commission denied the application to establish the TIF district, saying the program was not designed to fund projects on undeveloped “greenfields.”

Although the Gateway Commons TIF district didn’t pass muster, the state commission did approve several other signature TIF projects around the state, including the Ovation development in the northern Kentucky city of Newport, the Museum Plaza project in downtown Louisville and an expansive downtown development district in Bowling Green.   Continue reading

President Bush heading to Ft. Campbell Tuesday

President George W. Bush will dine with soldiers at Kentucky’s Ft. Campbell today along with Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield.

Following the meal, Bush will deliver a speech during a rally at the installation, which straddles the Tennessee border southwest of Hopkinsville. 

Here’s a bit from the Associated Press on the visit – 

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ President George W. Bush plans to eat with Fort Campbell soldiers after speaking at a rally in honor of the troops when he visits the post on Tuesday, a White House spokesman said.

Bush’s speech will be about the global war on terror, spokesman Trey Bohn said.

“The president will visit during the Thanksgiving season to both talk about this important and ongoing mission and to thank the soldiers and their families for their service and sacrifices,” Bohn said.

Bush also plans to present an award to a wounded soldier who has worked to improve the lives of Fort Campbell families.

The post is home to the 101st Airborne Division, which has some units returning after a 15-month deployment in Iraq.

… Bush also visited the post in 2004 to welcome home soldiers from the 101st who participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Guthrie borrows from Lewis to staff Washington office

Brett Guthrie will be keeping several staff members from his predecessor when he heads to Washington, D.C. next year to represent Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional District.

Brett Guthrie

Brett Guthrie

Robyn Minor with the Bowling Green Daily News is reporting that Eric Bergren and Megan Spindel will remain in Washington to work for Guthrie, a Republican state senator from Bowling Green, after Rep. Ron Lewis retires next year.

Bergren has worked for Lewis for his entire stint in Congress and is currently the Cecilia Republican’s chief of staff, and will fill the same role for Guthrie, according to Minor. 

Spindel, a Hanock County native, currently works for Lewis and took time off from her duties to staff the Republican headquarters in Owensboro this campaign season. Spindel will be legislative director for Guthrie – the same position she has with Lewis, according to Minor.

An interesting tidbit – Guthrie’s new office, 510 Cannon, is the same one former President Richard Nixon used while in the U.S. House from 1947 to 1951.

Western KY legislators pre-file bill to fund “mega” transportation projects

Two western Kentucky state senators pre-filed a bill Monday that would establish a statewide transportation authority with the ability to issue bonds and levy tolls on “mega” transportation projects with billion-dollar price tags. 

The bill filed by Sen. Dorsey Ridley, a Henderson Democrat, and Sen. Jerry Rhoads, a Madisonville Democrat, would create an 11-member Kentucky Public Infrastructure Authority to borrow the money needed to help finance these projects, including the proposed Interstate 69 bridge at Henderson that could cost $1.4 billion. 

“We’re acknowledging the fact that Kentucky’s roads and bridges are aging and we need some serious financial investment,” Ridley said. “It’s just an alternative funding mechanism that the (Kentucky) Transportation Cabinet will have for these mega-projects.”

The proposal follows debate during this year’s legislative session over competing proposals to help fund these projects with the anticipation of little significant financial help from the federal or state road funds in the near future. Continue reading

C-J: Bunning not filling coffers for re-election effort

Joe Gerth with the Courier-Journal has a piece today looking at the fundraising efforts of U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, the northern Kentucky Republican whose seat has been a hot topic of conversation for months. 

According to Gerth, Bunning reiterated during an interview last week that he plans to run for re-election in 2010, but only has $175,000 in his campaign chest – far less than other incumbent senators potentially running again in two years. 

Along with speculation over whether Bunning will run again is talk about who the Democrats will field in the race, with Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, Attorney General Jack Conway and State Auditor Crit Luallen mentioned as possible contenders. 

Check out Gerth’s report to find out more.

Update…

Pat Crowley with the Kentucky Enquirer also took a look at Bunning’s plans in an article today.

Guthrie wraps up week in Washington for orientation

Kentucky’s newest member of the U.S. Congress – Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green – was in Washington D.C. this week along with his 53 fellow freshmen in the U.S. House for orientation. 

The Associated Press managed to catch up with Guthrie for several of its national reports on the new class of congressmen, including Guthrie’s bad luck when it came to choosing office space. 

From an article by Laurie Kellman with the AP – 

By luck, chance or maybe he knew how to game the system, Peters reached into a wooden box of numbered chips Friday morning and withdrew a ticket bearing the No. 1. The other 53 freshman-to-be choosing office space also withdrew chips after they were called to the box in alphabetical order. About halfway through that process, Rep.-elect Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., pulled out No. 54.

That means Peters got first pick, and Guthrie got what no one else wanted, in the biennial office space derby.

Guthrie also chimed in for an article earlier this week by Jim Abrams with the AP, noting that he was looking to take a bipartisan approach and “we feel that we are coming here to be a statesman.”

While Guthrie is making preparations to head to Capitol Hill, no further word on his plans for his seat in the Kentucky Senate and whether his resignation will come before or after lawmakers return to Frankfort on Jan. 6.

Anticipated state budget shortfall grows to $450 million

The Consensus Forecasting Group today in Frankfort offered an even gloomier picture of the state’s revenues and predicted a shortfall of $450 million at the end of the fiscal year in June. 

The updated prediction follows one by Gov. Steve Beshear‘s administration just last month that saw state expenses outpacing revenues by $294 million by the end of the year with revenue streams flowing more slowly than anticipated. 

The predicted $456.1 million shortfall amounts to a 5.1 percent decline in revenues from what was budgeted for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The state’s road fund is also expected to come up short, with the state expecting to bring in $105 million less than expected. 

The Consensus Forecasting Group is made up of independent economists charged with making predictions about state revenues. The group meets regularly to update state leaders and the public.

“This financial crisis is neither imagined nor exaggerated. It’s real and it must be addressed,” Beshear said in a press release. “Kentucky’s elected leaders, regardless of party or politics, must come together to confront this challenge. Make no mistake, only tough choices lie ahead.”

Beshear said last month when announcing the anticipated shortfall that he would be developing a plan of cuts and possible revenue measures to help balance the budget. 

There is talk that the legislature might meet in special session next year – along with its regular session – to address revenue proposals that could include an increase in the cigarette tax.

Learn more from the Herald-Leader or Courier-Journal.