PIKEVILLE — Gov. Matt Bevin, who lost Pike County in the Kentucky Republican primary gubernatorial election in May, made a new campaign promise to the people of Eastern Kentucky and coal-impacted counties on Friday.

Bevin announced that he would give 100 percent of Kentucky’s coal severance dollars to coal counties in the 2020-2021 state budget if elected, according to a press release from his campaign. For the last 20 years, state revenue collected from coal severance taxes has been split in half between the state general fund and coal counties. This would bring an additional $30 million to Eastern Kentucky, according to Bevin’s campaign.

About $11.4 million in remaining single county coal severance funds is currently distributed to coal counties in Eastern Kentucky each fiscal year, and about $600,000 from the remaining coal severance funds is distributed each fiscal year to the Local Government Economic Assistance Fund,  according  to Kentucky’s Department of Local Government.

“Kentucky’s coal counties are in the best position to determine how coal severance dollars should be spent in their local communities,” Bevin said in a statement. “For the first time in Kentucky history, we are committing to return 100 percent of the coal severance money generated in the counties. This additional $30 million will be used to meet local needs and spur economic development. This is how good government should work and I am proud to emphasize more local control of these funds.”

Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones, a former state senator, expressed support for Bevin’s campaign promise Friday.

“I fully support this decision,” Jones said in a statement. “It should have been done years ago. I filed legislation to accomplish this as did other legislators, but we could never get it passed. This effort is vitally important for coal counties like Pike County that have lost nearly all of their coal severance tax revenue. Without a bigger share of the coal severance tax, many counties simply will not be able to provide essential services to their residents.”

Bevin failed to gain support from voters in Pike County during the Kentucky Republican primary election in May. Pike County’s voters backed his primary challenger Robert Goforth, with Bevin mustering 41.35 percent of the vote and Goforth pulling in 49.16 percent, according to the unofficial results for Pike County. 

Bevin ultimately won the nomination statewide and will face Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear in the November general election.

Beshear’s campaign responded to Bevin’s new campaign promise, saying the promise is a desperate move to gain voters in coal counties.

“Faced with a tough re-election, Matt Bevin is desperately promising to take actions he has refused to take for the past four years,” Beshear said in a statement. “This governor failed to create good-paying jobs in Eastern Kentucky, wages are falling, and coverage for pre-existing conditions and public schools are under attack. He’s failed to address the hepatitis A outbreak and even made it harder for coal miners with black lung to get the care they need. I’m focused on actually putting our working families first. That means Eastern Kentucky should not only gets their coal severance dollars, but we also need to create new jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits like affordable health care and a secure retirement.”

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