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The percentage of American mortgage holders who are behind in their payments has dropped, and fewer foreclosures are in the pipeline. But Kentucky and Indiana remain slightly above the national average.

According to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, foreclosures and delinquencies are on the decline nationwide, though both states trail the trend.  Just over 9% of Kentucky home loans and 10% of Indiana loans have past-due payments. The national average is 8.93%.

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Democratic consultant Paul Begala has penned an op-ed for The Daily Beast arguing that the small government rhetoric of Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Representative Hal Rogers is hypocritical, given Kentucky’s dependence on federal money.

Take Kentucky, please. Kentucky has given us Makers Mark bourbon, Churchill Downs, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Kentucky has also given us Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, tea party favorite Sen. Rand Paul and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. While Rogers was once dubbed the “Prince of Pork” and McConnell has hauled so much pork he’s at risk for trichinosis, they are now converts to Sen. Paul’s anti-government gospel.  McConnell says President Obama’s new budget is “unserious” and “irresponsible” because it merely cuts projected deficits by $1.1 trillion.  “The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five-word response,” McConnell said, “We don’t have the money.”

Fair enough.  So here’s my two-word response: Defund Kentucky. Cut it off the federal dole. Kentucky is a welfare state to begin with. The conservative Tax Foundation says the Bluegrass State received $1.51 back from Washington for every dollar it paid in federal taxes in 2005 (the most recent data I could find on the Tax Foundation’s website.)  We need to listen to the people of Kentucky. They don’t want any more federal spending in their state—and they certainly must be appalled by the notion that they’re a bunch of welfare queens, living off the taxes paid by blue states like California(which only gets 81 cents back on the dollar), Connecticut (69 cents), Illinois (75 cents) and New York (79 cents).

The issue was briefly raised during Paul’s race for the U.S. Senate. In recent years, we’ve seen many rural writers and advocates take increasingly bold stands against federal program cuts. From Post Office closures to poorly-expanded internet access, rural areas often see the effects of altered spending first. Of course, Louisville benefits from federal spending as well. Many previously-proud earmark earners say now is the time to end the process and close the deficit. Others, however, argue that in times of recession, a balanced budget should not be a high priority. When asked about the cuts in various federal budget proposals in the House, Third District Congressman John Yarmuth told WFPL:

“A lot of us, for whom some of these cuts the Republicans have proposed and even cuts like the ones the Obama administration has proposed would be much more acceptable if we didn’t have 10% unemployment and so many people suffering.”

What are your thoughts on how to square rural difficulties with small-government politics?

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has made a few headlines (including this one) over the last week.

The freshman Republican discussed his possible interest in running for the president. He also introduced a plan to cut $500 billion from the federal budget.

Like everything Paul does, these latest steps have brought out commentaries that run the gamut from enthusiastic support to fervent detraction. It’s the budget plan, though, that’s drawing some of the most varied criticism. The blog Barefoot and Progressive (if the name doesn’t give it away, the site is often critical of Paul) has documented several of the most recent criticisms from inside Paul’s own chamber of congress. First, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) sent Paul a letter saying the proposed cuts to the FAA would block modernization efforts, among other things. Next, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he disagrees with Paul on foreign aid.

The Hill has a rundown of Paul’s changing relationship with his colleagues. He’ll introduce one of those colleagues, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Jefferson County Republican Party’s Lincoln Days dinner Saturday night.

A new survey of 27 hundred independent business shows some slightly good news for Louisville retailers.

Just over half of the 82 local independent businesses in the survey showed an increase in holiday sales, and more than that showed an increase in annual sales.

Business First has more.

 

Two pieces of economic news today:

First, the unemployment rate for December 2010 was 9.8%. That’s down from 9.9% the month before.

But before you celebrate the one tenth of one percent change, consider this:

Louisville lost 5,700 private-sector jobs during the last year and more than 37,000 jobs during the last decade, placing it near the bottom of a ranking of the 100 largest U.S. markets, based on raw changes in employment.

The Fund for the Arts will kick off its annual fundraising campaign Tuesday. As reported on WFPL, the campaign begins at a time when many arts organizations are suffering. Fund CEO Allan Cowen says the organizations may need to rethink their size, though the fund will continue to support organizations as best it can. At one point in our interview, Cowen said if there were more money available to raise, the fund would likely have raised it.

The Louisville Orchestra’s musicians (Keep Louisville Symphonic) are not pleased with the Fund for the Arts. Kim Tichenor says the fund is neglecting its duties and took a swipe at Cowen’s salary, reported at more than $300 thousand (Cowen defends himself in the WFPL story). Tichenor also says Saturday’s Keep Louisville Symphonic concert raised $50 thousand.

See below for excerpts from the musicians’ statement:

Read the rest of this entry »

From WFPL:

The Louisville Orchestra has been granted an emergency payment to meet Monday’s payroll.

The orchestra has filed for Chapter 11, but last month a judge ruled that management must honor its contract with the musicians.

Last week, orchestra officials said they did not have enough cash on hand to pay the musicians beyond Monday. Rather than risk legal consequences, management sought to borrow funds from about two endowment accounts which total about $10 million.

In a statement released Friday, the orchestra said the request was granted, and the musicians will be paid with an advance on future earnings from the endowment investments. It’s not clear how much money was granted and how long that money will last. The funds will not only go to payroll, but also to other costs associated with continuing the season. The season continues through mid-May. The musicians’ contract expires two weeks later.

Management has sought to reduce the size and season length of the orchestra. The musicians say a smaller ensemble would not be successful, and have sought to close any budget gaps through increased fundraising efforts.

The musicians will play a concert not affiliated with the orchestra management Saturday at Ballard High School. The event is free, but donations to the players will be accepted.

Here is the official statement released by the orchestra:

Louisville, KY (January 28, 2011)… The Louisville Orchestra announced today that, in deference to the recent ruling of the Bankruptcy Court, it has sought and been granted emergency funding from the “Philharmonic Trust” and the Louisville Orchestra Foundation.  Each exist with independent boards and serve as separate legal entities from the Louisville Orchestra.  This support will enable the Orchestra to fund its next payroll on January 31.

The funding is provided as advances against future seasons’ endowment allocations, and was made possible, in part, due to the sharp rise in investment markets since December.  Issues concerning whether any additional funds can be obtained are continuing to be explored.

Community members who wish to support efforts to sustain live music and the Orchestra’s programs and services are encouraged to make donations exclusively through the Louisville Orchestra’s website (www.LouisvilleOrchestra.org).

Take a look at this story from WFPL:

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer delivered his first State of the City address Thursday.

You can read and listen to the speech here

Fischer acknowledged the city’s shortcomings and said Louisville must rise above the second tier: The city has lost thousands of jobs in the last decade; educated residents have moved away; and current graduation rates are below expectations.

Fischer says he wants the Brookings Institution to help craft a new economic development plan—a plan that includes working with nearby cities.

“I’ve spoken with the respected Brookings Institution to work with us to develop a new economic blueprint—a plan that includes Louisville working together with Lexington to grow the I-64 corridor into a super-region, along with the I-65 corridor,” he said, later adding that the consequences for not reaching beyond the city border could be dire.

“We need to look at our geographical cluster—Louisville, Lexington, E-town, Southern Indiana—as a geographic cluster that in 20 years will be viewed as a mega-city by the world. If we don’t have that population mass of 2.5-3 million, we will not be relevant in the view of the world 20 years from now,” said Fischer.

Fischer also acknowledged an $18 million gap in the city budget. While the economy played a role in the shortfall, most of the gap comes from a legal settlement with retired firefighters. Afterward, the mayor said he’s not sure how he will make up for the gap when he drafts the budget for the next fiscal year.

“Well we’re five months away from that right now, so we’ll be diving into that over the next 30 to 60 days and it’s just to early to comment on,” he said. “We’ve got to balance it, obviously, so we will.”

Fischer says he is determined not to raise taxes. The city budget has come up short for the last three years. Cuts in those budgets included layoffs and the sale of city property and equipment.

Compare Fischer’s first State of the City to former Mayor Jerry Abramson‘s last. Here is WFPL’s coverage:

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson delivered his final State of the City address Thursday to the Rotary Club. The speech included his vision for Louisville over the next five years.

The mayor says many of the accomplishments during the period will be the continuation or completion of projects he’s championed in the last few years. They include the Museum Plaza complex, expanded operations at G.E.’s Appliance Park and Ford’s two Kentucky plants, and the start of construction on two new Ohio River Bridges.

“My hope is by the end of this year—by the end of my administration—the bi-state authority will have a game plan and a financial plan in place to finance the construction of the two bridges and the reconstruct of Spaghetti Junction,” he says.

The mayor says the city will have to work with Southern Indiana and the rest of Kentucky to be successful.

“We have become of aware of the importance of understanding how what’s happening around us affects us directly,” he says. “And look at what I’m talking about when you focus on Fort Knox.”

The only element of Abramson’s plan that will come online while he’s still in office is the new downtown arena. It will open in November, just before Abramson leaves office to run for Lt. Governor next year.

Abramson’s speech looked ahead to 2015–a year when he imagined the city would be coming alive with new developments and attractions. Fischer, however, said Louisville will be irrelevant by 2031 if it does not work more closely with Lexington, southern Indiana and Elizabethtown, a partnership Abramson nodded to.

When you look at it this way, the difference between the two mayors’ visions for the city is stark. Like Abramson, Fischer didn’t hide his affinity for Louisville, but the new mayor also described the city as one that’s at risk of becoming out of date and has to overcome a decade of declining employment and education in order to survive.

Most stories about the Louisville Orchestra’s Chapter 11 filing mention the problems other orchestras are facing. The LO is struggling to make another payroll, and the Courier-Journal has a rundown of what other ensembles have done in similar situations.

NPR recently looked into the same thingSo did we.

Republican Senator Rand Paul has released his plan to cut $500 billion from the federal budget. It keeps Medicaid and Medicare untouched, but eliminates HUD and slashes transportation spending, the CDC, NIH, EPA and other agencies.

The plan is unlikely to pass both chambers of Congress.

CN2 has the bullet points.

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