94th District Representative candidate speaks to Fiscal Court

Published 5:03 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

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The Harlan County Fiscal Court heard from Mitch Whitaker, candidate for Kentucky State Representative for the 94th District, during the panel’s regular meeting for March.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley introduced Whitaker to the court. Mosley noted Whitaker is running unopposed.

“Thank you for having me, it’s always a pleasure to be in Harlan County,” Whitaker said. “There are two things I want to address. One is I’ve got about nine months until I take office. In those nine months I’m going to do my best to have some bills ready to hit the ground running. They won’t let you pre-file bills anymore, so I’ll have them ready when the time comes.”

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Whitaker told the magistrates he intends to address issues with jail funding when he takes office.

“We’re having the same problems in Letcher County,” Whitaker said. “I don’t know if you all heard, but we tried to pass an occupational tax because we’re hemorrhaging money and there’s fear that the state is going to have to come in and take over operations. So, this is an issue in two of my three counties.”

Mosley mentioned jail funding is a statewide issue.

“Something’s got to be done about it,” Whitaker said. “I’m one out of 100 folks, so I can’t promise success, but I can tell you I’ll do what I can. The first year is a non-budget year, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to do in that first year, but I’m telling you that if two of my three counties are having this problem that’s really threatening their future, something’s got to give.”

Whitaker indicated he was open to input from the magistrates.

“If there are any other issues you can think of that I can hit the ground running with, I’ll be drafting bills…to try and get them ready,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker advised he attended the meeting for a purpose.

“The reason I’ve come today, and I’m going to come to every meeting I can, is there aren’t too many events when I can go out and meet folks and hear about the issues when it’s cold,” Whitaker said. “But as it starts to warm up, I’m guessing there will be more events around the area and more things where I can go out and shake hands with folks.”

Whitaker noted he intends to be in Harlan County often.

Mosley added some thoughts on jail funding.

“We’ve talked about it a lot from the standpoint of funding,” Mosley said. “It’s a revenue issue. Harlan County Jailer (B.J.) Burkhart and his team do a great job here of keeping things reigned in from an expense perspective.”

Mosley pointed out there are many ideas on remedying the jail funding situation throughout the Kentucky General Assembly.

“There’s a lot of good dialogue right now in the General Assembly,” Mosley said. “There are a lot of different ideas about how to look at jail funding reform. Hopefully something will happen this session…there are about 25 different ideas on how to do this, so hopefully bits and pieces of all those will come into one document that people can get behind and support to help get the counties some relief.”

Mosley mentioned a recently proposed bill which would make Kentucky cities partially responsible for funding those inmates arrested within city limits will not likely move forward.

“It doesn’t appear that’s going to move,” Mosley said. “But there seems to be a lot of conversation about that. Of course, our philosophy has always been that there’s nobody in our jail on a county ordinance violation, and there’s nobody there on a city ordinance violation either. It’s all state charges. The state ultimately should pay the cost of housing inmates.”

In other fiscal court activity:

  •   An administrative agreement between Cumberland Valley Area Development District and the Harlan County Fiscal Court for the Cumberland Hope Community was approved;
  •   A fair housing resolution related to the Cumberland Hope Community grant was approved;
  •   The court reflected a proposed jail budget for fiscal year 2024-2025 was received.