Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fort Knox Economic Development Commission

I have to say that I am stunned at the Senate Military Affairs Committee approving SB-111 that would establish the BRAC Economic Development Commission which would administer a BRAC Economic Development Fund. Governor Beshear in his budget address committed to 100 million in bonds for the Fort Knox area to help provide infrastructure to prepare for the possibility of up to 10,000 new troops to the installation. The Senate Committee went well beyond that and approved 296 million to be administered by the Commission.

So why am I shocked? I will preface my remarks by saying that no one is more of an advocate than me when it comes to supporting our military families and our installations but I find it hard to justify doing this for the Fort Knox(Hardin Co.) area and not deliver one cent for Fort Campbell. Correct me if I am wrong but I do not believe that one single dime has ever been provided by Kentucky State Government to help provide infrastructure in the Hopkinsville-Christian Co. area to help support the families at Fort Campbell or the installations mission.

Fort Knox sits on 109 acres with 23,000 soldiers and dependents. Fort Campbell sits on over 105,000 acres with 31,000 soldiers and 56,000 dependents. Fort Campbell also supports over 135,000 retirees, retiree family members and reserve components in the area. Fort Campbell's website says that in FY-05 alone that Fort Campbell disbursements were over 4.5 BILLION dollars.

I can only imagine the thousands of military families that would choose to live on the Kentucky side of Fort Campbell if any money would have been allocated by the legislature to build infrastructure, provide schools close to the installation, better roads, developments ect.. If the folks in Christian, Todd and Trigg counties want infrastructure to support the military then we have to do it on our own.

Fort Campbell could be one the biggest economic investments we have in the Pennyrile and all we have asked for is the military tax exemption to compete with Tennessee since they do not have a state income tax. The Senate Military Affairs did pass SB-85 to create military rebate fund that would be administered by the Finance and Administration Cabinet which makes no sense at all. Why they just did not wait and pass a military exemption I don't know, instead the military would pay the income tax and then apply to recieve it back as a rebate. Create more unnecessary state jobs and a lot of red tape for the military. I guess the Senate wanted to one-up the House by passing this and since they could not pass a revenue bill in the Senate which must originate in the House plus maybe the State could draw interest on the money until people applied for their rebate? I am waiting to hear from Rep. John Tilley and Rep. Myron Dossett to see what their reaction is to these Bills. Tilley has sponsored the Military Tax Exemption in the House but it is my understanding that he has been waiting to make sure their is enough support for its passage.

I can support the bonds for Fort Knox but I want the Military Affairs Committee to approve the same commission and the same amount of bonds for Hopkinsville efforts to support Fort Campbell. Senator Joey Pendleton who is from Christian Co. co-sponsored this and I can't imagine how he is going to explain this back home. In talking with local Democrat Party leaders today they are dumb-struck regarding his support of SB-85 and SB-111 in the face of Fort Campbell not getting anything.Not to mention that Senator Pendleton is facing a tough Republican challenger who is a veteran. The word has been that because of Kentucky's financial woes the chance of passing the military exemption would not be good. Now, we can afford to issue 296 million in bonds but we can't afford to lose 17 million a year that would be an investment for getting military families to live in Kentucky instead of Tennessee?

Somebody stop the ride, I want to get off.

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