“In the last 18 months, Kentucky has lost 5,700 coal jobs and all but 200 of those were Eastern Kentucky coal miners. I have grilled leaders of the EPA time and again, slashing the federal agency’s budget with unprecedented cuts along the way, yet this administration has been relentless in its attack on coal. We must be diligent in helping these laid-off miners find employment and work to get our coal mines back on line. And Congress needs to pass the Coal Jobs Protection Act.”
A new report echoes what those of us defending Kentucky’s energy sector already know: Appalachia’s coal mining industry is in dire need of a respite from the EPA’s onslaught of unilateral mandates designed to specifically target eastern Kentucky.
According to West Virginia-based Downtown Strategies, Appalachian coal production is set to fall from 185 million tons in 2011 to 128 million tons by 2020, a 31 percent drop. The report specifically mentions tougher federal regulations being enforced by the Obama Administration as a reason for Appalachia’s downturn. The EPA’s infamous blockage of 40 mining permits and the ensuing derailment of nearly 4,000 jobs is also to blame.
What’s worse, in no small part due to the EPA-induced Appalachia downturn, coal mining jobs in Kentucky are at their lowest level since the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet started keeping track of them in 1950. There were only about 13,000 coal mining jobs in Kentucky for the first quarter of 2013, down by nearly 1,000 since the first quarter of 2012, and down by nearly 6,000 since a year and a half ago.
Yes, competing natural gas prices and more lucrative coal fields in western Kentucky and Wyoming have played a heavy hand in Appalachia’s downfall. But the EPA is trying to crystallize the depressed state of our energy sector so that it can never rise again when market conditions turn.
Leave it to a federal bureaucracy to kick a politically incorrect industry when it’s down.
(This article was published in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday, May 27, 2013)
By Brian Strow, Ph.D.
Jason Bailey, a member of the Governor’s Tax Reform Commission, argued that Kentucky needs to take “bold revenue action” to fund increased government spending. (Ky. Voices: Tax reform essential to Kentucky’s future, May 4).
Bailey is correct that Kentucky’s fiscal house is not in order. He is also correct that Kentucky’s tax code could stand to be improved with respect to both efficiency and fairness.
Unfortunately, Bailey’s policy prescription of higher taxes and more government spending will only make matters worse for the average Kentuckian.
According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, Kentucky ranked No. 13 in 2011 for tax burden as a percentage of personal income of any state government in the country. Of Kentucky’s neighboring states, only West Virginia ranked higher. Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri all ranked in the bottom 10 states for tax burden as a percentage of personal income.
If state taxes already are at the high end of the national average, why is Bailey suggesting that the state’s problem is a lack of revenue? In 2011, Kentucky ranked No. 9 for state government spending as a percentage of gross state product (GSP). Once again, the only neighboring state to rank higher was West Virginia. Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Virginia all ranked among the ten-lowest spending states.
This is unfortunately yet another reminder of how dependent Kentuckians are on the welfare state, and how dependent Kentucky is on our federal masters.
According to the release, 19 percent of Kentuckians lived in poverty in 2011, a year that saw Kentucky’s unemployment rate soar to 9.5%, No. 5 highest in the nation. What’s worse, only 61.5 percent of denizens of the Bluegrass State were considered part of the labor force, ranking No. 10 in the nation.
It’s statistics like these which show how important it is for Kentucky to embrace freer markets and smaller governments in line with the Bluegrass Institute’s core principles.
By allowing for true school choice in the commonwealth, our children will have more of the human capital needed to succeeded in a marketplace that’s always evolving, breaking the cycle of dependency seen in so many parts of rural Kentucky. By allowing Kentucky’s Energy and Environmental Cabinet to weigh the costs and benefits of our energy sector instead of bureaucrats at the EPA, Kentuckians will best be able to take advantage of all the natural resources and energy sources found in our soil for the benefit of business and the environment alike. And by following the Bluegrass Institute’s 16 solutions toward true pension reform, Kentucky’s abysmal credit rating and unfunded liabilities will be alleviated, allowing greater prosperity for Kentuckians.
Being the worst-managed state in the nation and No. 4 in residents on disability is not acceptable. Kentuckians deserve and expect more from our elected officials.
But, the articles can be hard to find!!
The Kentucky Enquirer ran an article about a week ago titled “IN OUR SCHOOLS: Glitches follow testing switch,” that talks not only about the computer-based problems that showed up in multiple states, but also about Kentucky dropping scoring for accountability with the high school end-of-course exam constructed-response questions (often called written-response questions).
This is based on our Bluegrass Institute News Release in early May which is the first time the public received information about the existence of this very important written-answer testing problem.
The only issue with the Enquirer’s article is that you have to really work to find the information. If you click on the link to the article above, you need to scroll down to the sidebar article on the left titled, “HISTORY OF THE COMMON CORE.” At the bottom of this sidebar, which only shows part of the sidebar entry, you then must click on the “v more” button to reveal the “TESTING ERRORS IN THE NEWS” item. Whew!
But, at least one more major Kentucky news source is starting to discuss this problem, which still remains a big question mark for impacts both on this year’s test results and for the future, too.