Some counties using coal severance to pay past debts

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FILE – Coal is hauled out of the Midway mine Tuesday, April 14, 2009, in Centertown, Ky. A group of former coal company officials will go on trial in Kentucky next week for allegedly skirting federal rules meant to reduce deadly dust in underground mines. The four men on trial, who worked for now-bankrupt Armstrong Coal, ordered workers at two Kentucky mines to rig dust-monitoring equipment to pass air quality tests, federal prosecutors said. (AP Photo/Daniel R. Patmore)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A published report says some of Kentucky’s poorest counties are using coal severance tax funds that were originally meant to bolster local economies to pay past debts.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports it analyzed how eight eastern Kentucky counties with high poverty levels spent $6.2 million in coal severance tax funds over the last two years. The newspaper found that 42 percent of the funding was spent repaying the principal and interest on old loans.

That’s not a concern for Republican state Rep. Chris Fugate of Chavies, who said debts have to be repaid. He said he has no objection as long as the money doesn’t go to something wasteful.

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