Local News Politics

Candidate Filing Deadline For 2011 Is Tuesday

Tuesday is the deadline to file to run for office in this year’s elections in Kentucky. As WFPL’s Gabe Bullard reports, interest in this year’s races is lower than it was last year.

There were many more races on the ballot last year, and that drew hundreds of candidates. And the posts up for election ranged from county clerks to Congressional seats. Just state races and special elections are on the ballot this year. But Secretary of State spokesperson Les Fugate says that doesn’t mean the hours before the deadline will be dull.

“You’ll see a lot of action, probably in the final days on the secretary of state’s race, the attorney general’s race, maybe even the auditor’s race,” he says. “We’re not expecting too many more filings for governor, but you never know who might be out there.”

Fugate further attributes the surge of candidates last year to dissatisfaction in the federal government.

“Federal offices were kind of what was driving a lot of the interest, and federal dealings were driving a lot of the interest in races in 2010,” he says. “That kind of reached down to all of the races at the local level. That fervor has dissipated a little bit.”

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State Agencies To Face 4% Cut

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced Thursday that many state agencies will face four percent budget cuts to make room for tax credit programs approved by the General Assembly.

“The legislature added some good programs that the governor supports, but the implementation schedule of those, rather than delaying the implementation they wanted to enact them immediately,” says Governor’s spokesperson Jay Blanton. “That’s resulted in some revenue needs that have exacerbated the shortfall.”

The state’s fiscal year began on July 1st, and Blanton says it’s necessary to make budget cuts now so the savings can be realized over the next 10 months.

“The so-called Consensus Forecasting Group has estimated that for this budget year, we’re about $82 million short of projections they had made earlier,” he says. “So making cuts now is a prudent thing to do because we know already that we’re probably not going to have the revenue that was anticipated by the economists earlier in the year.”

Some healthcare, public safety and economic development funds will not be cut. Higher education and SEEK formula education funds will also remain untouched.

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Unemployment Insurance Task Force Seeks Answers

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

A task force charged with finding ways to replenish Kentucky’s depleted unemployment insurance trust fund is holding frequent meetings in Frankfort
In recent years, Kentucky has been paying out more in unemployment benefits than it takes in through employer contributions. The situation was untenable, especially in a period of rising unemployment rates, and earlier this year, the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund went broke. To meet ongoing obligations, Governor Beshear announced the state would begin borrowing money from the federal government.

Helen Mountjoy
“This will enable us to pay benefits to everybody who is eligible. But this is only a short-term solution to a complex and long-term problem. Our current system is unsustainable,” said Beshear.
Indeed, not only is the trust fund broke, but the borrowed money must be paid back with interest, and the current tab is 245-million dollars and climbing. To find solutions to the problem, Governor Beshear created an 18-member bipartisan task force chaired by Education and Workforce Development Secretary Helen Mountjoy. Mountjoy says the group’s first challenge is to come to agreement on an unemployment insurance modernization plan that alters the way the state calculates unemployment payments.
“What we’re looking at is a way that we can insure that the most recent work history of a person is used as the basis for calculating whether they’re eligible for unemployment insurance or not and what their level of benefit might be,” said Mountjoy.
Adopting new guidelines could earn the state 30-million dollars in federal stimulus money, which would be used to help replenish the unemployment insurance trust fund. And Secretary Mountjoy says the task force needs to come to quick agreement on the issue in case Governor Beshear calls a special session in June.
“The things that we are looking at now, starting today with these modernization elements, are things that would require changes in Kentucky statutes,” said Mountjoy.
But Mountjoy says the panel of lawmakers and business and labor leaders has an even bigger challenge in the months ahead.
“To look at the system of unemployment insurance that we currently have in Kentucky – the one which currently is bankrupt. We are borrowing money from the federal government in order to continue paying benefits to people who qualify for them – to look at that entire system and again make recommendations that can go to the governor and the general assembly for making that system both stable and solvent,” said Mountjoy.
Task force member Jim LeMaster of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers says the group is going to need some help.
“The legislature has a policy where they don’t vote on anything without a fiscal note. If we don’t have some help out there, with some expertise, I don’t know how we address this issue. I mean we’re just sort of in the dark if we don’t come to some method of trying to find somebody to give us some help in that area,” said LeMaster.
One member suggested hiring a Washington consultant to study Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system and make some solvency recommendations, but Rep. Rick Nelson says the task force should look closer to home.
“We’ve got two – at least two, maybe more – fine universities that would seem we use those folks for a lot of other things. And our own Finance Cabinet and state government – I would hope that we could maybe get some people locally to do a model for us, instead of spending 150-thousand dollars,” said Nelson.
Secretary Mountjoy says the group can also call upon experts in the Labor Cabinet, but she’s open to all suggestions. Final task force recommendations for restoring and maintaining the viability of the unemployment insurance trust fund are expected to be ready for consideration by the 2010 General Assembly.

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KY To Refund Food Stamps Spent On Ruined Food

Mayor Jerry Abramson Kentucky government officials say the state will refund food stamps that were spent on items ruined following Sunday’s windstorm.

If food stamp recipients in Kentucky have spent their September allotment on food that was later spoiled in blackouts or destroyed in floods or fires, they can get the stamps replaced.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says any distribution office can refund the stamps.

“You explain that to them and within 24 hours, your card is in fact upgraded and you receive the additional moneys giving you the capability to go the grocery and to reuse those coupons,” says Abramson.

The city will also set up a mobile food bank Wednesday at the corner of 14th Street and Broadway.