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State Using Coal Severance Tax Money for Rupp Arena


The Lexington Herald Leader broke a story last night that is sure to cause some controversy over the next few days. The Kentucky State Legislature is using money from the coal severance tax to fund the design phase of the new Rupp Arena project. For those of you unfamiliar with that tax, it is placed on owners of coal mines based upon the work done upon their lands. The theory behind the tax is that because there is some taking of value from land in the mountains due to the mining, the tax is an offset of the value from such activities. Such taxes are taken by states across America and in Kentucky, a percentage of the money that comes from the tax has supposedly been reinvested back into Eastern Kentucky through projects for the area. The money has often been a source of controversy but it has generally been accepted that it would flow back into the area from which it came.

However now, because the state has been unable to come up with any other source of money for the Rupp Arena design project, this Eastern Kentucky tax is being used for the Lexington project. Many leaders in the mountains are upset about this, suggesting that if the tax is taken due to the mining in Eastern Kentucky, it should be continued to be invested in the area. Kentucky state politicians have countered, arguing about the importance of UK basketball to the entire area, including Eastern Kentucky, including this quote by Speaker of the House, Greg Stumbo:

“Though Rupp is not in the coalfields, many believe it plays an important role in the state because of the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball program, and there is strong alumni support in our region as well.”

I have mixed emotions on the issue, but disagree with the premise that money invested in Lexington and Rupp Arena is the same as in Eastern Kentucky. Much of the Rupp Arena project has nothing to do with UK, and much of the design is being focused upon the Lexington economic area around Rupp Arena, including cultural areas that are designed to benefit Lexington but do little for Eastern Kentucky. Either way, the issue will continue to percolate over the next few weeks and should be very interesting to follow going forward.

Article written by Matt Jones

56 Comments for State Using Coal Severance Tax Money for Rupp Arena

  1. Heisenberg
    5:06 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I would love to see Rupp have a makeover but I rarely attend since I dont live anywhere near lexington, so I think the money from the tax should go back to something more constructive in eastern KY

  2. Who cares
    5:07 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Who cares where the money comes from. I for one am not from Kentucky so my opinion doesn’t count. Having said that, the only important thing that comes out of that state is Kentucky sports. Hey that arena upgraded. You can spare me the details of where the money comes from.

  3. Big Blue Earl
    5:08 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink


  4. Heisenberg
    5:08 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    So if the money came from illegal laundered money, you still wouldn’t care?

  5. Rei
    5:11 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Stumbo can rot for all I care

  6. Matthew P
    5:12 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    If this is the case, they should be ashamed. The money should most certainly go back to Eastern Kentucky. The area is in need and throwing money into a ball gym just to “out-do” Louisville is a joke. I want a revamped Rupp as much as anyone but priorities are priorities. Basketball is fine and can sell itself. I’m all for the Commonwealth renovation because we need that. Rupp on the otherhand, is fine. Unless we can get a set up where the old people get moved,piss on all of this.

  7. Biglaw Dawgin'
    5:18 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Free or reduced tickets for Eastern Kentuckians. There, problem solved.

  8. Charles White
    5:19 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    These taxes not only come from eastern Ky. but much coal comes from western Ky. also.

  9. Oh the Typos...
    5:19 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Man there are some nasty sentences in here. I can’t get beyond the typos to hear his substance…shewwwww

  10. Jeff k
    5:20 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Lexington should foot the bill, not Eastern KY. Ridiculous that we have politicians who think otherwise. Eastern KY needs more resources, not less.

  11. Jeff k
    5:21 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    And I’m a UK grad from Louisville

  12. Big Daddy D
    5:21 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Hate to tell you all this but most of the coal mined in KY is now in West KY. Not east KY

  13. Ticketholder
    5:21 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t care where they get the money, I want a back on my seat lik the lower level people have!

  14. Adam
    5:24 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    How different is this than Louisville/lexington tax dollars being spread through the
    State? I think what emu has gained from that situation as well as the money from other areas has well compensated them for this endeavor. That said, it’s sad and a bit surprising that this is where they chose to get funding from.

  15. Deacon
    5:24 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Haven’t the folks who call into the radio show been saying, “We just need to the ‘coal money’ to improve Rupp”? Well, it appears that’s exactly what’s happening.

  16. kes
    5:25 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    and this is total BS. Let all the big shots in lexington that have gobbled up all the good tickets for decades foot the bill. eastern ky has it hard enough as it is. that money should go toward improvements in eastern ky, not lexington.

  17. Rob
    5:27 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is nothing new, being from Eastern ky we know that the coal severance tax is being used in the bigger cities, has been for years. They dont mind taking the tax money but sure don’t want to distribute it back to our region. With the coal industry being down so bad in eastern ky i’m not sure how lexington and louisville will make it, seriously what do you think builds the roads and parks in those cities? It’s freaking ridiculous is what it is. Gotta love the crooks that we call politicians…

  18. woooooooow
    5:27 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is a Harlan issue. It really is. Anyone who has ever been to Harlan knows that it’s the most downtrodden, god forsaken place you could possibly imagine. Matt is from Middlesboro so he knows, I’m sure. Spending money on a blueprint or a guesstimation for a renovation of Rupp that could instead be going towards that area is ridiculous. They need to invest the money back into the area and they need to be transparent about what they spend it towards.

  19. 2step
    5:28 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    That money shouldn’t be used for this purpose. I never comment on any topics, but this is personal, as I reside in Pikeville. This is ridiculous.

  20. Billdozer
    5:31 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Coal mining areas are unquestionably the most impoverished in the state. Now, the state wants to take MORE money away from them to redesign an arena that most of them can’t afford to get into?!?!? And even the few that can afford it can’t get tickets anyway! Seriously, why do you think UK fans travel so well? It’s because they can’t get into Rupp Arena for home games! That doesn’t mean they are passionate fans, it means that “old white money” gets all the seats they can.

    Taking money from hard working men and women just so horse farm owners and politicians can have better seats AND buy up the seats next to them all for the sake of having a better place to play because “little brother” got a new arena is exactly what the Lexington area is all about. Old White Money taking more money off the common people by crooked means.

    From Keenland to Red Mile and now from Commonwealth to Rupp…. I’m almost damn near close to admitting I’m ashamed to be a Kentucky fan today.

  21. Tax more
    5:32 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I live in Easter Kentucky and there is a huge toxic waste dump behind my trailer. The money from this tax is supposed to be used to clean it up.
    If they can improve Rupp Arena and keep getting top recruiting classes, I am all for it.
    I can keep inhailing dioxin and other carcinogens for another 30 years

  22. east ky
    5:32 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    #12 not true.

  23. Kyblu50
    5:34 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Money spent from all resouces should be given back in appropriate amounts in earnings from the new Rupp Fieldhouse each year until all is paid back.

  24. Cat
    5:35 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is a must-read article on the issue. From the Hazard Herald:

    “It is true that many people here love UK basketball, and some who still have jobs will go take in a few games next season. But perhaps Speaker Stumbo and our other legislators can explain to people in their home region why they can’t get waterlines extended to their communities. Perhaps they can explain why an arena outside of the coalfields, where no coal is being produced, should get millions in coal taxes that are supposed to go back to the coal counties.

    “Perhaps that’s how they believe it is supposed to be, that the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Our priorities are obviously askew when we value an entertainment venue over necessities like water, but in the end we can’t say we’re that surprised. After all, the state lops off over 50 percent of coal taxes for the General Fund and other allocations outside of the coalfields. What’s another $2.5 million?

    “Let’s ask the people of Fort Branch.”

  25. Paducahfan
    5:38 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Regardless of where the coal is mined, the political power is in Eastern Kentucky, so if this deal goes through, it’s because the pols in the east are OK with it.

  26. CatsFan12
    5:38 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Newsflash! Lexington is in Eastern Kentucky. Don’t agree that it should be going to the city of Lexington though. BTW there is a lot of coal coming out of Western Kentucky. It is pretty hard to develop mountains full of trees though compared to the flatlands of Western Kentucky. Might as well send it to a good cause. Cancer research or something of the nature.

  27. HackRichards
    5:43 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Ahhh It’s O.K. We eastern Kentuckians are used to being crapped upon and looked down your noses at from central Kentucky. Shame really since coal is all we have economically. Lexington Liberal Environmental Types want us to QUIT mining BUT turn right around and STEAL the money generated by mining intended for the region it was mined from. We love ALL THINGS UK Basketball and even Football but you guys can KISS OUR ASS!

  28. Pretty Crappy
    5:43 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I love my CATS, but that tax money should go back into Eastern Ky, not toward funding Rupp’s redesign!

  29. Bob Cobb
    5:47 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I say we take this tax to its logical conclusion:

    Every region will have its tax money returned.

    Every county will have its tax money returned.

    Every municipality will have its tax money returned.

    Every person will have his/her tax money returned.

    I get to keep my tax money.

    I’m happy. Let’s do it.

  30. ProspectMike
    5:49 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Can’t feel sorry. Oldham, Bullitt, Jefferson and Shelby counties pay 25% of taxes for transportation and get only 14% back. It’s not a perfect world. I bleed blue, but before anybody hammers Jefferson County, the entire state benefits from the tax as it will from Rupp making more money.

  31. Coal is dead
    5:50 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Hey thanks for the cancer, mercury in the water, lung disease too. ‘Preciate the $$ for the upgraded Rupp and the Coal lodge dorm thingy, but really can’t we have solar power up here in Lex? Because this Old White Money guy in Lex is tired of breathing that foul air and coal dust blowing up this way. See ya in Section 15 Row A next season! Go Cats!

  32. EasyMoney
    5:59 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is the most stupid idea for a while. How can this move possibly help people from western or eastern KY.
    NO WAIT……..they can drive 3-4 hours to renovated Rupp and pay scalper price for tickets, this will help those needy scalpers then drive back home again. Stumbo and his clan can sit in their cushy seats in the lower arena close to the floor for their funneling these funds to downtown Lexington. Then stay in Frankfort for legislative meetings the next day, or in their second home in Lexington.

    Woudn’t be so bad if this was to help build an on campus arena so the students wouldn’t have to walk back through the dark streets to campus after a 9 PM ESPN game. Cold as crap. Do tell, how many students have been hit by a vehicle trying to get back to campus. All because of politics. Have any of those students died, just ask the families.

  33. [email protected]
    6:02 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    31-The electricity powering your computer is powered by coal. Coal dust causing foul air in Lex? Oh, I see, you’re a di$hit.

  34. Kotor
    6:03 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Eastern Kentucky has been getting screwed since D Boone came through the Gap. Nothing new here. The rest of the state has always thought that the “ignorant hillbillies” will put up with anything because they are accustomed to bending over and taking it.

  35. EasyMoney
    6:07 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    34 you are correct, but its sad that now our own leaders are shoving it the hardest and telling us much we like it.

  36. oh t-a-x-x- tax tax tax
    6:16 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    “The money has often been a source of controversy but it has generally been accepted that it would flow back into the area from which it came.”
    That is just not true. While that was the general idea of the tax only 7.6% of the $2.7 billion collected from the tax over its first 20 years (1972-1992) was invested back in to coal counties. This is nothing Frankfort and crooked coal field politicians havent done before.

  37. VinnyCent
    6:18 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Hey 25, Lexington isn’t in the mountains bub.

  38. johnboy not billy
    6:23 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    well I for one am from the flatlands (Georgetown) that has lived in eastern Kentucky for 30 years… and I, too am tired of my new part of the state getting the shaft. BUT have no fear, your President and the EPA will shut it all down, and there won’t be any money left to squander. Just like we did when we kicked tobacco to the curb! Now I’m no proponent of CANCER, but come on boys and girls, if you get rid of the biggest cash crop and drag your feet on replacing it, who’s to blame? Just ask Knott county and Pike county who are laying folks off daily because of coal severance shortages how they feel… I’m sure they won’t be as eloquent as I have been. GO CATS! OH -and those idiotic students protesting COAL and the COAL LODGE sure must feel really stupid now!

  39. Coal is dead
    6:25 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    #33 you mad bro? I got a pair of hamsters running in a wheel that power my IPad. Don’t use a computer anymore….that is so passé and, well, kind of an Eastern KY thing to do. Send me more coal tax $$. There’s a small pothole in my fancy Lexington neighborhood that needs to be fixed. ‘Preciate it! See ya in the first row at Rupp!

  40. Rayland Givens
    6:25 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I think it’s justified.

  41. the real jd
    6:36 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I live in Eastern Kentucky. Anyone that lives here will tell you that the coal severance money goes straight into politicians pockets. Very, VERY little of it is actually used for the betterment of the community.

  42. WKY fan
    7:24 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks god there’s no coal any western Kentucky glad were not getting screwed!! Oh wait…. Thanks for covering the whole state KSR!!

  43. leftygilmore
    7:46 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    #39. you’re 100% a liberal. More over an idiot. Want to know why KY has one of the lowest utility costs in the US? Coal powered. want to know who pays for you to be an idiot? Coal money

  44. Coal is dead
    8:07 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    #43 Want to know why ky has one of the highest cancer rates? If you live in eastern ky, want to know who pays for the Medicaid, unemployment assistance, food stamps that probably 50% of your county is on? It’s not the tax base of eastern ky, I assure you. Yeah, who the hell would want clean air, clean water, trees, a healthier population, etc.? guess i do because i would gladly pay a higher utility bill to get it. Sorry I can afford it. how stupid of me.

  45. Coal Cat
    8:35 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    More taxes=more cost to consumers. Always has, always will

  46. Tampa Satchel
    8:36 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This is the problem when conservative politicians paint themselves in a corner about tax revenue. So instead of implementing a tax on the region receiving the benefit, they find a way to justify stealing funds that are earmarked for another region that apparently has less clout.

  47. Gotta say it
    8:48 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    I see a lot of comments about keeping taxes where they were collected, so it reminded me of an interesting map I saw. It shows all the states and how much Federal tax revenue they get for every dollar in taxes they pay.

    Check it out:

  48. JOJO
    10:16 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Wait, the poorest part of the state that just takes takes takes is whining about where tax dollars go? GTFOH!

  49. Captain Wildcat
    10:54 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, Can’t they at least buy a video scoreboard to hold us over? Especially with this tremendous season coming up, it would certainly be an excellent upgrade to showcase it all.

  50. Wildcatsteeler
    11:22 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    This must be quite a dilemma for all the Cons on here. Faux News tells them they have to love coal and oil because they own the Republican party. Plus they have to hate taxes so this extra tax has to infuriate them. But it’s going to renovate the arena of the team they love. From what I’ve seen from these comments they are justifying taking the money because Eastern Kentucky is just poor “takers.” I guess it doesn’t matter that this tax is specifically taken to be invested in the lands that have been raped and polluted beyond repair.

  51. Swoony
    11:53 pm June 12, 2013 Permalink

    Soooo…can I get a refund on all the Louisville taxes I’ve paid that get pushed back to the rest of the state? Haven’t heard any coal folks who have an issue with that.

  52. Reality
    12:32 am June 13, 2013 Permalink

    #38 – You have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m from Pike County, and the coal industry isn’t dying off because of the EPA or current administration. It’s dying off because natural gas is booming due to increased use of fracking. For all the people who are anti-renewables have cried about letting the market decide, you’d think they wouldn’t be complaining about the die-off, because it’s happening in a laissez-faire manner!

    EKY isn’t getting screwed over because of the federal government. We’re getting screwed over because state and local governments (as evidenced by this article) don’t care a whit for the well-being of the area, and neither do the coal companies that have drained us dry. Coal-producing counties are no better off than non coal-producers, because this resource has made a select few rich and kept everyone else with their heads barely above water. Any talk about diversifying our economy and energy base has been consistently decried as traitorous by the coal bosses and politicians, all while shipping coal’s economic benefits out of the region.

    Not too long ago, the University of Pikeville was denied status as a state-institution by the state government and other universities. And, yet again, when the region needs the money it produces it goes to something else, and this time to a project as petty and misplaced as a basketball arena renovation for a college in central Kentucky. So screw everyone who supports this. We can’t even get a state university while the corrupt state and local politicians pump money into basketball.

  53. HackRichards
    7:05 am June 13, 2013 Permalink

    52-Amen NO ONE in the rest of the state wanted these monies to go to a University for us. Now the same monies are going to become a basketball arena we will never use and most will never see the inside of.

  54. sunnycat
    9:03 am June 13, 2013 Permalink

    Tax dollars should NEVER be used to finance a project that is owned and operated by a private company. If renovations are needed at Rupp let Lexinton Corp. get their own financing.

  55. classof68
    9:25 am June 13, 2013 Permalink

    It’s called a money grab. Other terms include malfeasance, theft by deception, fraud…… It’s the new normal in today’s fascist world.

  56. SEKY
    11:04 am June 13, 2013 Permalink

    If you’re okay with this in any shape, form or fashion, you are an awful person.