- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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June 2

The Lexington Herald-Leader on protecting work-study program:

President Donald Trump wants to cut in half a Republican-friendly financial-aid program that embodies the party’s value of hard work.

His 2018 budget proposal, released May 23, included a 49 percent cut to the Federal Work-Study Program, which helps low-income students earn money to pay for college through campus-supported jobs.

The cuts in the program, which benefits almost 10,000 students in Kentucky, are just part of the 13 percent decrease of the total Department of Education budget.

University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy said about 460 UK students participate in this “critically important program.”

Tracy said that he and others at UK are working with the Kentucky congressional delegation to ensure members understand the importance of work-study. He said he hopes any reforms to the program would not reduce the number of UK students who benefit.

UK and many other public, private, liberal-arts and community colleges are in Rep. Andy Barr’s 6th Congressional District. With so many constituents who could benefit from work-study, Barr should champion the program and persuade fellow Republicans and Kentuckians in Congress to do the same.

Of course, turning back the cuts to work-study before the final budget is passed should be a bipartisan effort, but with the GOP-controlled Congress, work-study as it is today cannot survive without Republican support.

In 2016, 635,000 students earned $1.1 billion through the work-study program. Under Trump’s budget, $553,728,000 would benefit only 333,000 students.

The true value of the program is more than the money - it’s the jobs.

Work-study helps get students out of fast-food kitchens and into jobs related to their educations and their futures. Work-study jobs typically have better hours, a more supportive environment for the student’s academics and are often on campus. In addition, they give students valuable, career-related work experience.

Some in education agree with the Trump budget’s assertion that the 50-year-old program has become “poorly targeted.” The Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators found fault with the formula used to allocate money to students. Adjustments should be made to ensure the program serves those most in need and more undergraduates, the experts say.

Perhaps a better solution than cutting the program in half would be fixing the formula.

The first step is for Barr and other Republicans to speak up in Congress and save the funding for work-study so students - including many right here in Kentucky - can get the jobs they need.

Online: http://www.kentucky.com/

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June 1

The Daily Independent on KEAP funds boosting the region’s appeal to industry:

Among the 12 grants totaling $400,700 awarded by Kentucky Power Co. for economic development projects were two of particular interest to this region. Both should help make northeastern Kentucky more appealing for industries seeking to expand.

The Ashland Alliance was awarded $17,500 through the Kentucky Power Economic Advancement Program to seek build-ready certification at the EastPark industrial site.

Ashland Community and Technical College received a $25,000 grant through KEAP to purchase equipment for its fiber-optics training program. The ACTC Foundation was also given $16,500 for initiatives that focus on economic development and energy-efficient programs throughout the school.

The grant to the Ashland Alliance will make EastPark, the large industrial park in Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties, “the first build-ready site in all of eastern Kentucky,” said Alliance President/CEO Tim Gibbs. He explained the five-year program allows the alliance to have the site ready to go, including building layouts and financing plans.

This region already has been certified as “work-ready,” meaning there are enough qualified workers and/or training programs to meet the employment needs of most companies. Being certified as “build ready” will add to the appeal of this region. While it will not guarantee that companies will build here, it is certainly a tool worth having.

The ACTC grant will help erase a major concern many employers have about moving to this region: A lack of area residents without the levels of education and job training they need to fill the jobs they will create. Two-year community colleges are best equipped to train students for the jobs employers are offering.

Brad Hall, Kentucky Power manager of external affairs, said the company sees the grants as ways to create new jobs and opportunities in the area. He said the company has invested more than $2.5 million in strategic economic development initiatives since about 2014.

Hall added the company has already seen benefits of the investments, citing the announcement of Braidy Industries, a $1.3 billion aluminum mill coming to Greenup County.

KEAP was launched about the time Kentucky Power purchased interest in an existing power plant in West Virginia, shut down the largest generator at Big Sandy Power Plant near Louisa and converted the remaining generator from coal to natural gas. Those decisions cost not only good-paying jobs at the power plant, but jobs for coal miners in the region and truckers hauling coal from the mines to the plant.

Kentucky Power officials recognized the changes at the Big Sandy Power Plant had a huge negative impact on the economy of this region and KEAP is one way the company is attempting to help lessen the impact of what Kentucky Power considered to be the best business option for it.

However, Kentucky Power has always been a leader in economic development in its service area for the simple reason that new businesses and industries create new customers for the electric power it produces. Ideally, not only will the grants KEAP announced Tuesday create new jobs for this region, but also new customers for Kentucky Power. If they do, the entire region will benefit.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/

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June 2

The Bowling Green Daily News on the need for special session after cuts:

Since the start of the year, legislative leaders have expected Gov. Matt Bevin to call a special session for tax reform and to fix the ailing pension system.

However, there has been little mention of it lately. The one thing that has been asked, though, is for state agencies to reduce current year budgets by one percent in the remaining days of the fiscal year.

In a May 23 letter, State Budget Director John Chilton made the request to agencies and constitutional offices to “restrain your (Fiscal Year) 2017 expenditures to allow a minimum of 1 percent of your 2017 budget to lapse to the General Fund.”

The requested adjustment follows an earlier projection by Chilton and his staff that state revenues are expected to fall $113.2 million short of projections for the year.

While a one percent shortfall isn’t going to pose a major crisis for the state government as a whole, it is painful for the many agencies that have already seen their budgets drastically cut in the past decade. Some have seen reductions of more than 35 percent since the start of the recession in late 2008.

Although we agree some agencies were bloated, after being sliced numerous times over the years, there is very little fat left to trim.

In a previous radio interview, Bevin said “we truly have got to increase revenue and that comes by creating more taxpayers in this state.”

While Bevin sees economic growth as one way to increase revenue, he also told lawmakers during his State of the Commonwealth address this spring that tax reform must include new revenue, perhaps by closing some of the tax exemptions that cost the state an estimated $12 billion each year or extending the sales tax to services.

Agencies can sustain only so many cuts before they can no longer provide the necessary services to Kentuckians.

During his speech, Bevin said, “think big; be bold.”

It’s now time for the governor to be bold and call for the special session.

Online: http://www.richmondregister.com/

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