- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Officials in Pike County have filed suit against state officials over a new process it must go through to receive coal severance tax proceeds.

The Lexington Herald-Leader (https://bit.ly/1rZvLGZ) reports the lawsuit filed by Pike County Fiscal Court in Frankfort on Oct. 1 says the change was included in the budget bill approved by lawmakers during the 2014 session. The lawsuit says the change is unconstitutional because it affects only one county.

It says the budget bill “does not set forth any rationale whatsoever for the legislative decision” for the change, which will “severely hamper” Pike County.

The lawsuit says counties have been able to use the funds to meet “economic and other needs of their communities,” but now Pike County is being held to stricter standards than others.

The new requirements include applying to the Department for Local Government for the grants from a pool of funds and spending the money only on “bona fide economic and industrial development projects.”

It names as defendants Local Government Commissioner Tony Wilder, Legislative Research Commission acting director Marcia Seiler, and the clerks of the Kentucky House and Senate.

Seiler said told the newspaper that she couldn’t comment on pending litigation and Wilder referred a request for comment to his department’s general counsel, who did not return the call.

Democratic State Sen. Ray Jones of Pikeville said one reason for the change was “we were given $11 million in requests for coal severance from Pike Fiscal Court and only had about $4 million to spend.”

“We wanted to make sure the money was spent for only viable projects and not squandered as the state mines less and less coal,” Jones said.

He said he didn’t know why the process wasn’t changed for other counties.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com

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