FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear wants lawmakers to approve an overhaul of economic development programs that he says would help Kentucky Speedway attract a NASCAR Sprint Cup race and help lure an advanced battery manufacturing plant to Hardin County.
Beshear on Friday added the issue to the agenda of a special legislative session slated to start June 15, along with a proposal to create an authority that could fund the Ohio River bridges project in Jefferson County, possibly with tolls.
The Democratic governor also stood firm on his decision to ask lawmakers to approve a proposal that would allow slots at racetracks, saying he would not amend his call to include a proposal by Senate President David Williams to improve purses at racetracks without expanded gambling.
Williams, R-Burkesville, later said he hopes the governor reconsiders.
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Williams also appeared to pick up some support from House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
Stumbo released a statement saying Williams' proposal "contains many recommendations that have been offered by the horse industry in the past and should be part of the debate. I am glad to see there appears to be full agreement that help is needed for the horse industry."
Williams' plan would generate about $83 million a year for the horse industry by putting a 10 percent surcharge on lottery tickets, dedicating various taxes and fees for the industry's use and levying a 1.5 percent tax on out-of-state wagering.
Beshear said he had concerns about Williams' package, particularly the contention by the lottery that its sales would decline with a 10 percent surcharge.
Williams said he found it hard to depend on what Lottery President Arch Gleason says and produced a review by the Legislative Research Commission's chief economist that said sales of lottery tickets do respond to price changes, but the magnitude of the response is difficult to measure.
Calls to the lottery's Louisville office were not returned Friday.
Beshear said he appreciates Williams' proposal but it has "a lot of moving parts" and is "quite complex."
He said he prefers that the legislature vote up or down on his plan to allow video lottery terminals at the tracks.
Beshear said he has completed his call for a special session and would add to it only at the request of legislative leaders. Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The length of the session is determined by the legislature.
Asked if the Senate would consider Beshear's slots legislation if Williams' plan is not on the call, Williams said it's a moot point because he doesn't think the Democratic-controlled House will ever pass the governor's plan. If it does, he said, it would get a "fair" hearing in the Senate, but he sees no sentiment for the measure in his chamber.
The president added that he has advised senators who talk to lobbyists about expanded gambling to have a staff member or witness present. He voiced concern about possible corruption.
Beshear's agenda will include a plan to deal with a $1 billion shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, slots at the tracks, an economic incentives package and the mega-transportation projects.
He has not yet presented any specific legislation on the issues, and is expected to present his expanded gambling plan early next week.
Williams expressed frustration that the session is to begin soon and the governor has not yet produced any bills on the issues.
"I told him this would be a full agenda for a regular session," the Senate leader said, adding that he sees no need for a special session and has told the governor that the legislature will pay for five days' cost of the special session but the state's General Fund would have to pick up the cost for additional days.
A special session costs taxpayers about $50,000 a day.
Beshear said his economic incentive package would create a tax credit program for small businesses, expand a tax exemption already in place to improve the state's chances of hosting future Breeders' Cup World Championships and approve a resolution needed to prepare for a proposed advanced battery manufacturing plant in Hardin County.
It would mirror a package considered in this year's regular legislative session to help lure a NASCAR Sprint Cup race to the 72,000-seat Kentucky Speedway near Sparta.
The package would have allowed Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, to recover up to one-fourth of its $75 million expansion over 20 years through sales tax revenues collected at the track.
The measure stalled earlier this year over debate about requiring Kentucky workers on the Speedway renovations. Beshear said Friday he is reviewing that issue.
Concerning a funding mechanism for mega-transportation projects, Beshear said it would involve bridge projects between Kentucky and Indiana.
Jefferson County's $4.1 billion bridges projects — two new bridges over the Ohio River and a redesigned Spaghetti Junction near downtown — have been hampered over debate on how to pay for the state's $2.8 billion share.
House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said he is glad Beshear put the issue on the agenda and thinks lawmakers will come up with "a good product."