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City Faces $6 Million Deficit, Humana CEO to Retire, Palin Endorses P’Pool: Afternoon Review

In case you started the weekend early, here are some of the stories we’ve covered today that you may have missed.

Louisville Metro Government is facing a $6 million deficit based on early revenue projections. The shortfall exists despite higher receipts in the first three months of the fiscal year.

Humana president Mike McCallister has announced his retirement after 38 years with the company. He will step down within the next 18 months.

And former Alaska Governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has endorsed Republican Todd P’Pool for Kentucky attorney general. The P’Pool campaign has released robocalls in which Palin urges voters to support P’Pool and mispronounces his last name.

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Rogers Confident “Super Committee” Deficit Plan Can Pass

By Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

If the so-called “super committee” comes up with a plan to reduce the federal debt by more than a trillion dollars, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., thinks it will get through both chambers of Congress.

The congressman offered his take on the controversial 12-member panel of House and Senate lawmakers during a stop in Morehead last week.

Rogers says if the bi-partisan committee crafts a plan that reduces both discretionary and entitlement spending, including closing some tax loopholes, it will have broad support.

“It’s going to take sacrifice e on just about everybody in order to get rid of that deficit and get us back under a job producing economy,” he says. “And that 12-person committee’s responsibility is very heavy. Tough, tough job but I’ve got to believe they’ll be successful. The penalty for not being successful is just too much to pay.”

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Clark County Departments Are Slow to Respond

The deadline for Clark County, Indiana departments to respond to how they will stay within budget was Friday. And not every department turned in a written response to the county auditor’s office.

When County Attorney Greg Fifer sent an internal memo asking for the commissioners to deny any request to pay bills or payroll, the response was immediate. The commissioners deferred to the council to fix the problem, and the council deferred to the individual departments. Now responses have slowed, and the question of how to stop a $1.2 million budget deficit from default is not as imminent as before.

Around half of Clark County departments turned in their response, said Council President Kevin Vissing. But, the county is likely to keep buying time and pushing back responsibility of dealing with its growing deficit, he said. Some departments might borrow, others might ask for donations, said Vissing.

The Sheriff’s office has made an attempt at cutting back. Sheriff Danny Rodden recently announced a change in vehicle policy that restricts use of department vehicles. But Rodden will need to do more, said Vissing.

“That’s too little too late. It’s going to help a little bit but not much. I’d say the big dent is going to come from our budget from the Sheriffs office,” he said.

Despite Fifer’s memo, there’s no penalty for departments being late to respond for now, said Vissing.

“You know there’s not going to be a huge penalty, It’s just really being competent and responsible,” he said.

But county budget meetings begin this week and the county can’t keep kicking the can down the road, he said.

This week the county begins budget sessions. Departments are expected bring budgets they think they need. But Vissing said he expects that the budgets will be too large for what the council will offer.

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Local News

Indiana’s Clark County Faces Possible Layoffs

Clark County, Indiana continues to struggle with a $1.2 million dollar deficit. Now, the council must decide on Monday how to prevent layoffs to municipal employees.

Clark County Attorney Greg Fifer sent an internal memo on Tuesday asking for the commissioners to deny any request to pay claims or payroll at their Thursday meeting because the county can’t make its payments. This includes issuing layoff notices that would go out as early as Aug. 9 unless the council approves a stop-gap measure.

There are a few options that will likely stop layoff notices, said Council President Kevin Vissing.

“We can either borrow money now and pay our bills as we go and then pay that back this fall when we get our dispersment from our taxes. Or we could go ahead and use some funds we have now and borrow later,” said Vissing.

But, Clark County will probably have to go further, he said.

“Realistically we are going to come up probably over $1.5 million short for the year. So I think we’ve got to continue on with potential layoffs and furloughs and cuts anywhere that anybody can cut money in their budgets,” Vissing said.

The county lost significant revenue after reducing property tax collections around 25 percent in 2007 during a budget surplus, he said. State law prevents the county from reinstating the previous tax rate, but can increase it less than 3 percent each year for inflation, he said.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Obama Press Conference Live on WFPL

President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a news conference this morning from the White House, where he’s expected to discuss the ongoing deficit negotiations and impending deadline to extend the debt ceiling.

For our live coverage, tune to 89.3 FM or listen online at wfpl.org beginning at 11:20 am.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Yarmuth Discusses Budget Debate on MSNBC

Calling the debt ceiling issue one of the simplest decisions Congress can make, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., made an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” to discuss his views the Democratic and Republican plans to reduce the national debt and deficit.

Check it out:

Yarmuth continued his harsh criticism of the proposal submitted by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, which he recently called the “Harry Potter” plan.

But the congressman also told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that both sides have become too rigid on the issue.

” I think the public is really focused for the first time on the serious nature of our economic situation, our fiscal situation. We have the opportunity to have the kind of thoughtful conversation that we need to have,” he says. “And I don’t think either side should rule anything off the table.”

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Local News Politics

Mayor’s State of the City Address Today

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will talk about job growth and a projected deficit in his State of the City Address today.

The number of jobs in the metro area has declined 4-percent in the past ten years. Fischer is expected to make creating jobs his top priority. He’ll also discuss the projected $20 million deficit in the city budget this year.

Mayor Fischer delivers his address today at noon at the Downtown Rotary Club at the Galt Hotel – the traditional venue for the speech.

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Commonwealth's Attorneys' Offices Closed This Week

Most of the employees in Kentucky’s Commonwealth’s Attorneys offices are on unpaid furlough this week.  Governor Steve Beshear ordered budget cuts to the department, which led to the furlough week.  It’s a move to help offset the state’s budget deficit.

Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney David Stengel says his staff is already carrying heavy caseloads, and a week of not working isn’t going to help.

“It’s not going to just put us a week behind, because crime doesn’t stop for that week,” says Stengel.  “So our already backlogged cases will get another week backlogged, people will be sitting in jail another week waiting to have their day in court, witnesses will not be able to come in and have their cases finally adjudicated… it’s going to be a mess.”

Stengel has a staff of about 100 people.  Most of them will be out the entire week.

Another dozen or so are Metro Government employees; they’ll work Monday through Thursday, but Friday is a city-mandated unpaid furlough day.

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Tax Hikes On Cigarettes, Alcohol Win Final Approval

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

The 2009 Kentucky General Assembly is increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes to address an almost haf-billion dollar shortfall in the state budget.

After passing the House 66-34 earlier this week, the tax bill moved to the Senate, where 23 votes were needed for passage.

It got 24, including 11 Republicans.

Twelve senators opposed the bill, including two Democrats. One was Lexington Senator Kathy Stein. The other was former Governor Julian Carroll of Frankfort. Carroll says taxing alcohol six-percent at the retail level is unfair to the industry.

“We increased the excise tax in ’82 from three cents to nine cents, moving the sales tax to an excise tax,” Carroll said.

The revenue bill now goes to Governor Beshear, who is expected to quickly sign it into law. All of the tax increases in the bill take effect April 1st.

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Local News

Budget Bill Moves To Kentucky Senate Floor

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear made an early morning appearance before the Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee. He was there to urge passage of the tax bill that cleared the House Wednesday 66-34. Beshear says the measure protects his top priorities – education, human services and public safety.

“Senate leadership, the House leadership and I agreed that we had put together a reasonable package to address this situation. Is it perfect? No, not perfect at all. But it is a reasonable solution that does allow us to maintain those priorities.”

The bill emerged from the committee, but the vote was close. Tied at 8-8, which would have killed the measure, Republican Senator Elizabeth Tori changed her No vote to Aye, to get the bill onto the Senate floor.

It will need 23 votes in the 38-member Senate to win final passage Friday.