Bevin to coal country — no help for you

While Donald Trump bamboozled Eastern Kentucky voters by promising to bring back coal jobs, his mini-me, Gov. Matt Bevin, has thumbed his nose at that part of the state, hoping it won’t notice.

Watch this city slicker work.

His budget proposal, released last week, lists 70 state programs that would get “no state funds” for the period of two years, or basically until he’s up for re-election. They include cuts to Mining Engineering Scholarships, Robinson Scholars (a program that helps Eastern Kentucky youth receive a higher education), Kentucky Coal Academy at Kentucky College and Technical School, Appalachian Learning Disabled Tutoring, Coal County College Completion Scholarship and several agricultural programs.

The budget is disastrous to some of the most-vulnerable citizens of the state. Eastern Kentucky — or Coal Country, as it is called — is not known for its wealth and economic stability. Read any story about the area and it is rife with tales of its devastating poverty. This is the poverty that Republicans like to pretend doesn’t exist in America or that exists only until those bootstraps can be pulled. It’s deep, unsettling and generational poverty.

Bevin is sticking a knife in the back of the coal country voters who helped get him elected, voters who have repeatedly been ridden bareback by politicians promising the sun and delivering nothing but extended and exacerbated poverty.

Imagine living in Eastern Kentucky where your livelihood is dependent upon one industry — one dying industry — and the only way around that is to take advantage of free or inexpensive training programs to help you navigate the changing economic landscape. These difficulties are not foreign to me. My parents worked very hard, my mom in hospitals and my father for the city of Louisville in the Parks Department. My dad brought so little money home each week, barely over $100, and had to somehow figure out how to make those meager dollars feed and clothe two kids and maintain a household.

But my parents, at least, had the advantage of living in Louisville where they had options.

Republicans have used the coal industry to pander to voters despite indisputable proof that it is in its final years as a fuel. The rise of natural gas and urgency of environmental concerns have set the course for this and no amount of Republican ballyhooing will change it.

Still, many programs that support the coal corporations also offer support to the workers in other ways. KCTC’s Coal Academy program helps teach skills that are transferable to other occupations and therefore remain essential to the coal region.

The good news is that Bevin’s budget can be changed by the General Assembly, the collective term for the legislative bodies to which Bevin must submit his proposal.

KCTCS officials are pragmatic, if not politic, in their reactions to the proposed defunding.

“As we are just learning about the Governor’s proposed cuts in funding to the Kentucky Coal Academy,” said Dr. Vic Adams, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College president and Kentucky Coal Academy Board chair. “We remain hopeful and understand the Governor and General Assembly do not have an easy task ahead of them. The Kentucky Coal Academy is in the process of developing plans to move forward to ensure our programs continue to support miners, their families and the communities we serve in the best way possible.”

KCTCS Marketing Manager Greg Hines said, “Right now everything is so early on that we’re still doing business as normal and taking a look at everything to make sure that we can continue to support the communities that we serve through our four programs across the state.”

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the programs that people go through they teach them transferable skills. It’s kind of built into the program. They can easily transition into different careers that have similar skills.”

Bevin’s spending plan perfectly illustrates the ruse that Republicans continue to pull on their own voters, but this isn’t a piece to point fingers at Republican voters. It is solely to point fingers back at folks like Bevin and to illuminate politicians like him who seek a state with a political vulnerability, move in and claim to represent that place. Bevin is not representing the best interests of Kentucky because he doesn’t care about Kentucky or its people. He was born in Colorado, raised in New Hampshire, and he arrived on the shores of the Ohio in only the late 1990s after he’d become a member of the American oligarchy.

State Rep. Rocky Adkins, the Democratic leader from Sandy Hook in Eastern Kentucky, of course, has no love for Bevin. His points are nonetheless convincing.

“As our region continues to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession and the steep decline in coal production, we don’t have much more to give,” Adkins told LEO.

“Coal-county schools would lose technology money under the governor’s budget and that is before taking into account a drastic drop in funding for textbooks and school transportation,” he said. “I think if the governor had talked with one miner who had benefited from the Kentucky Coal Academy, or one student who went to college because of the Coal County Scholarship or Robinson Scholars, he would have thought twice about removing these initiatives.”

But, again, Bevin isn’t thinking about Kentucky, as he claims he is. He’s thinking about what he can do to follow along the shortsighted and economically destructive path of Republicans at the federal level. Certainly, many Kentuckians have suggested ways to bolster the state economy with new dollars and eliminate the slash and burn that leaves the state vulnerable and still underfunded.

So what are Kentuckians going to do?

Become better critics. Scrutinize the people who keep telling us they want to serve us or help us. Who are these people? Many of them aren’t who they claim to be. Bevin isn’t.

To our state representatives and senators, stop toeing the line for carpetbaggers with no attachment to the soil of Kentucky. Y’all’s mommas and daddies didn’t work this hard for you to turn your back on kinfolk for dollars.

Bevin isn’t from Kentucky, we know this much.

As Kentuckians and critics, what do we know about whether he cares for the state?

Look at his budget.

About the Author

Bevin to coal country — no help for you

Erica Rucker is LEO Weekly’s Arts & Entertainment Editor. In addition to her work at LEO, she is a haphazard writer,  photographer, tarot card reader, and fair to middling purveyor of motherhood. Her earliest memories are of telling stories to her family and promising that the next would be shorter than the first. They never were. You can follow Erica on Twitter, but beware of honesty, overt blackness and occasional geeky outrage.


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