Legislation proposed to help Kentucky tornado victims

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 20, 2012 

Delmer Harper looked for items to salvage from the wreckage of his father-in-law's business, McKenzie's Pool and Lunch, which had been a West Liberty institution for decades.

FRANKFORT — A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is backing emergency legislation to help Kentucky's tornado victims.

The proposal would provide tax relief to owners of buildings damaged in the March 2 tornadoes and assist schools and staff suffering with potential loss of funding because of absences caused by the disaster.

Flanked Tuesday by 11 other lawmakers, state Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, said building owners in all 21 Kentucky counties that were declared disaster areas by President Barack Obama could recover the state's 6 percent sales tax paid on building materials used to repair or replace any structure damaged in the disaster.

The buildings must be repaired or rebuilt in the county where they were damaged, said Stacy, whose hometown was decimated by a killer tornado.

Owners would send all sales receipts to the state Department of Revenue, along with an information-sharing document from their contractor — if one were used — verifying the purchase of materials.

In addition, owners would submit documentation from the Federal Emergency Management Authority or an insurance company authenticating that the work was performed on a home or building damaged March 2 in the disaster area.

After processing the information, the state Department of Revenue would issue a check to the building owner refunding the sales tax.

Owners could submit receipts for refunds to the state through March 2, 2015.

The proposed legislation also would support school systems and employees affected by the severe weather.

It would authorize the state education commissioner to declare as many as 10 days of missed school as emergency disaster days. This would not count against their average daily attendance figures used to calculate state funding.

It would give school districts the option of using last year's attendance figures instead of this year's figures if attendance is significantly lower to make sure funding would not decrease.

Concerning school personnel, certified and classified school staff would maintain their salaries and benefits for the period school was not in session.

The staff would perform work for those days, but it might be in areas other than their regular assignments.

Lawmakers did not provide an estimated cost of the legislation.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said the legislation would be attached to a bill that has been filed already.

The House budget committee is expected to approve it Wednesday, followed by a full House vote later this week, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the legislature "probably will have to do other things" to help tornado victims.

He said it would take a year or more for the devastated communities to get their economies back in place.

"We don't understand at this time all the problems that will come forth," he said.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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