LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky is reportedly setting aside about $ 410 million for major economic development projects, including one in Hardin County, under bills introduced in a special legislative session.
The largest portion – $ 350 million – is said to pay loans to companies that invest at least $ 2 billion in the state. These loans would be canceled entirely if the projects met 90% of their employment and payroll targets.
The state’s $ 1.9 billion budget reserve trust fund would provide the money for the program, which has the backing of the administration of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear and Republican leaders in the General Assembly.
Supporters say the measures give Kentucky economic development officials another tool to attract large employers, including the kind of upfront incentives other states regularly use. They passed the House and Senate committees unopposed on Wednesday and are now awaiting floor votes in their respective chambers.
“It puts us in this position to be able to compete not only in the global market, but here in our neighboring states and across the United States,” Rocky Adkins, senior advisor at Beshear, told members of House Economic. Development and Workforce Investment. Commission Wednesday. “This is a game-changer. “
The funds included in the legislation are not limited to a single company and “could apply to multiple companies,” said Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, who introduced the House version of the bill.
In a similar Senate meeting, Senator Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said “these (potential) projects are scattered across different parts of the state.”
But the House bill and his Companion of the Senate distinguish a site that state leaders have long hoped to house a major builder: 1,551 acres in Glendale, off Interstate 65. The Kentucky state government purchased the land in 2002 after failing to land the automobile giant Hyundai; some critics believed that the protracted land negotiations had contributed to the choice of the company in Alabama.
The legislation would repay a $ 10.6 million state loan on the Hardin County property, allow the land to be used for manufacturing, and allow the relocation of the Elizabethtown County Industrial Foundation site. -Hardin.
Rick Games, president and chief operating officer of the foundation, did not respond to a phone message left on Tuesday. The office of Hardin County Executive Judge Harry Berry referred a reporter to the foundation.
The bills would also give the Kentucky Community and Technical College System $ 25 million to build an on-site training center in Glendale. The system previously opened the $ 24 million advanced manufacturing center in Georgetown to support Toyota, spokeswoman Terri Giltner said.
Statewide, $ 20 million would be available for workforce training grants in the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation programs for projects that invest $ 2 billion, as well as $ 5 million in government grants. formation of the KCTCS.
The big incentive bills come more than four years after lawmakers agreed to invest $ 15 million in a start-up steel processing company near Ashland, Ky., An effort led by the administration of former Governor Matt Bevin. Lawmakers approved spending the money in the closing hours of the General Assembly with few details on how it would be used.
The company formerly known as Braidy Industries has yet to create the factory and the jobs it promised.
Several lawmakers have alluded to the heavily criticized investment, while saying they believe current bills include enough state monitoring and reporting requirements.
“Braidy is still fresh on everyone’s mind,” Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said at the committee meeting. “What we are asked to do today is to take a leap of faith. And that’s a bit of a stretch for us because our current governor hasn’t established a relationship with our legislature. “
Katie Smith, Kentucky’s assistant cabinet secretary for economic development, told lawmakers other states were giving “more upfront payments” to interested companies. The Kentucky loans would be prepaid as a “lump sum”, apply to construction and other capital costs, and be forgiven based on achieved employment and salary targets, he said. she declared.
There is no cap on grants for a single project, but Smith said the bill would prohibit loan recipients from using other state incentive programs, such as loan repayments. sales and use taxes, employee contributions and corporate tax credits.
Smith said officials were working with a “handful of projects” across the state. She was unable to estimate the tax revenue these projects could bring to the state, saying it depends on the size of the projects, the number of employees and the estimated payroll.
The only lawmaker who “passed” or did not vote on the bills was Representative Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville. She said she wanted more details on things like economic projections and pay rates for large projects.
“I will get more information,” she said. “Because while we are focused on jobs and economic development, we are also focused on fiscal responsibility and we are stewards of taxpayer dollars. “
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