One of the biggest questions surrounding the Rupp Arena renovation is how the project will be funded. A few weeks ago, we found out that $2.5 million of the funding will come from the coal severance tax, which is money coal companies have to pay coal-producing counties to compensate for the resources they extract. Now, $2.5 million isn’t a huge amount when you consider what it will take to renovate Rupp Arena, but it is a lot of money to the counties that need it in Eastern Kentucky. The argument the government is trying to make for using the money is that renovating Rupp will create more revenue, which will then go back to Eastern Kentucky. Governor Beshear said this at the recent Rupp renovation press conference: “Strengthening this city strengthens this state. Lexington is one of the state’s economic engines. Together we can put this engine to a higher gear.”
LEO Weekly’s Willie Davis did a feature piece on the coal severance tax funds going towards Rupp’s renovation in its latest issue, which includes interviews with KY Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and our own Matt Jones, who as you know, is a native Eastern Kentuckian with a lot of views on the matter. Matt told LEO that he’s disappointed that coal money is going towards the new Rupp: “The symbolism of it really irks me. Every time coal is mined, something is lost in Eastern Kentucky. What’s taken from this area cannot be replaced.”
As for Greg Stumbo’s argument in the Herald-Leader that taking the money is justified because Eastern Kentucky has so many UK alums and fans? “I like Stumbo, but it offends me that he, as an East Kentuckian, thinks because we like basketball, we’d be OK with this,” Matt says, “People in Eastern Kentucky love UK? Sure. People in Central Kentucky love UK, too. Let them pay for it.”
In the piece, Matt makes it clear that he supports the renovation, but says there have to be better ways to fund it: “If you don’t think the (coal severance) money should go to Eastern Kentucky, then why have a tax on it at all?”
There’s plenty more where this came from, so go check out LEO Weekly’s piece to read more. I’m sure you’ll let your opinions be heard in the comments section as well.
[Reclaiming Kentucky: Why is the coal severance tax funding Rupp Arena’s renovation?]