In a last-minute surprise, lawmakers were asked by the Bevin administration Thursday night to approve up to $15 million for a “mystery” economic development project somewhere in Eastern Kentucky.
Just hours before the legislature adjourned for the year, the Senate and House obligingly approved an amended version of House Bill 482 containing approval for the $15 million bond and sent it to Bevin for his signature.
During a House floor debate, after several Democratic members asked for more information about the project, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell said it would provide 1,000 construction jobs — 500 permanent jobs once the project is finished — with an average salary of $75,000. Other top lawmakers said the project would be located in the financially-struggling region of Eastern Kentucky.
Kentucky is competing with one other state for the project, Shell said.
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Economic Development Secretary Terry Gill said the funding is needed as “an option for us to respond to a competitive situation that we’ve been pursuing for several months.”
Some lawmakers know details of the potential project but “we have a pretty tight non-disclosure,” Gill said.
Asked if the proposal had anything to do with Bevin’s recent economic development trips to Germany and Switzerland, Gill said, “not directly.”
“It is the result of the improving climate in the state,” he said.
A public announcement could be coming within six to 10 months, Gill said.