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Special Session Could Also Yield $410 Million In Incentives For Unnamed 'Megaprojects'

Josh James

While this week's special legislative session is focused squarely on COVID-19, Kentucky lawmakers also appear primed to bolster incentives for major unnamed economic development projects.

The Beshear administration is asking legislators to okay $410 million in state incentives aimed at luring up to $2 billion in investments to the commonwealth, and so far they seem to be on board. Wednesday, twin bills backing the incentives passed through Senate and House committees without opposition.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer said they don't offer any certainties, but will allow Kentucky to compete.

"Other states have better incentives than we do. They're just writing checks," the Georgetown leader said. "But hopefully this puts us in the game to compete."

The unspecified nature of the projects, however, could bring back some bad memories for lawmakers. Back in 2017, the legislature approved $15 million to attract what was then called a "mystery project" touted by the Bevin administration. That turned out to be an investment in Braidy Industries, which has not come through on promises to build an aluminum plant near Ashland.

As for the new incentives, Beshear senior advisor Rocky Adkins sought to reassure lawmakers, saying safeguards will be in place.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.