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Beshear calls special legislative session for eastern Ky. flood relief

Normally shallow streams turned into raging rivers, tossing cars and turning homes inside out during flooding in eastern Kentucky.
Justin Hicks
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Normally shallow streams turned into raging rivers, tossing cars and turning homes inside out during flooding in eastern Kentucky.

Gov. Andy Beshear has called a special legislative session for lawmakers to pass a relief package for eastern Kentucky communities rebuilding after devastating flooding.

The Democratic governor said he has come to an agreement with leaders of the Republican-led legislature on a bill that would help address the crisis.

“Throughout these weeks they have been productive conversations. Not bipartisan; nonpartisan, about how we help these communities and ensure our counties and cities don’t go bankrupt and our utilities don’t have to raise rates on families already hurting just to repair and replace necessary infrastructure,” he said.

The session will begin at noon Eastern Time on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

Beshear said the package will include elements similar to western Kentucky tornado relief legislation,which provided about $200 million for impacted communities. That funding has been used to offset costs for local governments cleaning up debris, repairing damaged buildings andhelping schools restart after a delayed school year.

But officials have speculated that the eastern Kentucky recovery could be even more expensive than western Kentucky’s ongoing rebuild.Beshear estimated school repairs could cost more than $100 million alone.

Beshear said the governor’s office and the legislature are committed to helping the region recover.

“To the people of eastern Kentucky, we are with you now, we will be with you tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. As long as it takes to rebuild,” he said.

Fortunately, the disasters have come at a time when state government is flush with cash from budget surpluses and other financial windfalls. Kentucky’s so-called “rainy day fund” ballooned to $2.7 billion this summer after years of state tax revenue outpacing predictions.

Some lawmakers have called for the state to set aside surplus funds to disaster recovery efforts, though the decision is complicated by arecent law that will lower Kentucky’s income tax rate when the state has a budget surplus. Kentucky’s 5% income tax rate will be lowered by 0.5% at the start of 2023.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.

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