News that 1,200 more coal jobs in Appalachia were cut this week was the last thing anyone in our neck of the woods wants to hear. Though those jobs weren’t in Kentucky, as a region we’ll still feel the impact of job loss.
While the most immediate impact will be felt by the workers needlessly losing their jobs, here in Kentucky where jobs were also cut these past few months, the coal counties can expect a more long-term effect.
Perry County, for instance, as one of the state’s top coal producers, receives millions in coal severance each budgetary session of the General Assembly. Our elected leaders in this county have used much of that money to expand waterlines and other needed projects for the people. What we’ll experience with an ongoing downturn in coal production will be a decrease in severance funds. In effect, counties like Perry will have less money with which to work.
We’re not sure of the overall impact, though wisely Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble has said that he has made adjustments to the county’s budget to reflect any possible losses and ensure that the county’s services aren’t interrupted. But while Perry County is on sound financial footing, other counties in the region are likely not as lucky, and losses in any kind of funding will hit them harder.
Already state officials have said that coal severance revenues are down significantly, to the tune of about $88 million, and it seems that the state’s coal counties are quickly becoming victim to a down market and burdensome regulations from the federal government. Officials in Frankfort reported this past week that 27 of the 35 coal counties eligible for coal severance funds will likely be short of the money needed to fund both single and multi-county projects.
No matter your politics, this is an issue that isn’t good for the coal counties, where these funds are being used for worthwhile projects. Considering that about half of the total coal severance funds go to Frankfort, we’re not sure why the coal counties, where infrastructure development is needed most, are going to be feeling these impacts.
We urge Frankfort to fully fund coal severance projects in the state’s coal counties, and let us continue to use these funds to develop our counties so that our region can play on a more level playing field.
— The Hazard Herald