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Ky. House Passes Bills Aimed At GE, AK Steel

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 8:41am
Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- House lawmakers agreed on Monday to extend state tax incentives aimed at spurring new expansion projects by General Electric Co. and AK Steel, two key employers in the state.

Sponsors of the two bills said they would help safeguard high-paying jobs offered by the corporate giants.

Both measures sailed through the House with no opposition. The bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

One proposal would expand a state incentives program for GE's Appliance Park in Louisville. The measure would provide about $15 million a year in tax incentives to GE by extending benefits of the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act to manufacturers of appliances.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said the incentives would help spur a $325 million investment at the sprawling appliance manufacturing center in Kentucky's largest city.

The ripple effects would be felt far beyond Louisville, since GE's employees come from 40 Kentucky counties, he said.

Since 2009, GE has invested $800 million in Appliance Park, bringing employment close to 6,000 people.

Julie Wood, a GE spokeswoman at Appliance Park, said Monday the incentives would amount to a "small part" of the new investment being considered. But incentives play an important role in the investment decision, demonstrating the state's commitment to business growth, she said.

"Adding additional capabilities and continuous improvement of existing operations is essential to make GE the appliance maker of choice for consumers in a very crowded, highly competitive industry," she said.

Meanwhile, the other measure targets the AK Steel plant in northeastern Kentucky.

That bill would give AK Steel an extra two years to undertake supplemental projects and qualify for state incentives under the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act if it meets eligibility requirements. Those incentives would follow terms of the initial modernization project that qualified for incentives.

Democratic Rep. Tanya Pullin, the bill's lead sponsor, said the steelmaker is a crucial economic contributor to her region of northeastern Kentucky. Its plant also uses large amounts of eastern Kentucky coal, and its steel is used by some Kentucky manufacturers, she said.

"The main thing it will do is maintain and keep high-paying industrial jobs," she said.

The GE-related bill is House Bill 396. The AK Steel-related bill is House Bill 483.

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