Kentucky League of Executive Director/CEO J.D. Chaney and President and Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott appeared on Kentucky Newsmakers with Bill Bryant. The discussion focused on the KLC legislative agenda, House budget proposal, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) final rule, and disaster relief response. Kentucky Newsmakers aired Sunday morning on WKYT-TV. You can watch the episode here.
“One of the beautiful things about Kentucky is, our 416 cities are so diverse,” Chaney said in discussing a key legislative agenda item – revenue diversification. “That means that their tax bases are diverse. Having some flexibility is vitally important. What may work for Lexington probably is not going to work for Ravenna. Having some options to reflect that diversity of the various tax bases in all of our city governments is something that is really important.”
The KLC Board of Directors sets the legislative agenda each year. Chaney stressed that the 2022 agenda includes proposals that modernize how cities operate and serve the public. “Moving the ball forward for cities helps move the state forward,” he stated.
Chaney and Traugott also discussed the House budget proposal that Representative Jason Petrie (R-Elkton) filed as House Bill 1. “There’s a lot of good proposals in it,” Chaney said. The budget includes funding for a new Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) shooting range at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and increased state funding for county jails. Additionally, the bill evenly splits $50 million for cities and counties to repair bridges and fix roads.
Traugott applauded the continued appreciation shown in Frankfort for the importance of home rule. “Decentralization of power is something that I think most people advocate for and believe in because you get closer to the people,” he said. “I can’t avoid my constituents. I go to Kroger. I go to church. I’m going to see them. They know where my office is, and everyone lives within two miles of it.”
Chaney added, “Over the past 20 years, both Republicans and Democrats, regardless of party, have embraced that philosophy ‒ the branch of government closest to the people (can) make the decision, are more accountable, and the public can react.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury released the final rule on Thursday for the use of ARPA funds. When asked about the new guidance, Mayor Traugott applauded the change that allows cities to use a standard revenue loss allowance of up to $10 million. “The strings have been loosened quite a bit on the way we can use it,” he remarked. “Most cities, except for six in Kentucky, have pretty wide latitude in how to spend their ARPA money. KLC has been the primary resource of information for cities ‒ they have for me ‒ since the program came out. The interim rule has been complex, by any standard, and J.D. and the KLC staff have done a great job in telling us what options we have.”
Kentucky Newsmakers host Bill Bryant asked about the response to the western Kentucky tornadoes and the outpouring of help from cities across the state. Chaney explained the quick response. “It wasn’t an hour before the first call from the first city saying, ‘We’ve got people. We’ve got equipment. What do you need? What does the city need?’”
Bryant cited the tornadoes and asked how a city stays ready for emergencies, including more common weather responses like last week’s snowstorm. Traugott responded that cooperation is critical. “The state mandates that we have some emergency management preparedness,” he answered. “We have a staff in Versailles and Woodford and Midway. We share staff that has a preparedness plan. Nothing to the magnitude of what happened to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, you can’t prepare for that, but we’re ready for a typical event.”