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By wmadministrator

The Kentucky Commerce Cabinet has changed its name to the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet as part of a reorganization designed to more accurately reflect the mission of the agencies within the cabinet. As part of the reorganization, the name of the Department of Tourism will be changed to the Department of Travel. Other changes include changing names of divisions and branches within the new Department of Travel, reducing the number of regional divisions within the Department of Parks from three to two and moving the Kentucky Sports Authority to the Secretary’s Office. Though some positions were moved as a result of the reorganization, there have been no position or pay cuts.

Gov. Steve Beshear has announced two initiatives to help state employees deal with rising fuel costs. The first initiative involves a new carpooling Web site to link employees who are interested in commuting. Beshear is also encouraging more flexible work hours throughout state government. Flexible work options already exist through Personnel Cabinet regulations and the governor has asked Cabinet secretaries and other agency heads to take a closer look at implementing a voluntary flexible schedule for employees whose duties would allow it. The governor emphasized the flexible work options initiative will not affect delivery of services and will not reduce operating hours or quality of service.

The Kentucky Department of Revenue has set the 2008 State Real Property Tax Rate at 12.2 cents per $100 of assessed value. KRS 132.020 requires the Department of Revenue to set the real property rate no later than July 1 of each year. The rate is based on the revenue generated from the increase in taxable real property assessments from 2007 to 2008. If the increase in revenue is more than 4 percent after the exclusion of new property added to the tax roll during 2008, then the new rate must be a reduction. Since the revenue increase for 2008 is estimated at 6.65 percent, the state rate will decrease from 12.4 to 12.2 cents per $100 of assessed value to limit the increase in revenue to 4 percent. All of the revenue generated from the state property tax rate will go into the state’s General Fund.

Kentucky’s gas tax increased on July 1, going from 21 cents per gallon to 22.5 cents. The tax of diesel fuel was increased from 18 cents per gallon to 19.5 cents.

Unemployment rates rose in 108 Kentucky counties between May 2007 and May 2008 and fell in 12 counties, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. Woodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the commonwealth at 4.6 percent, while Jackson County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate – 11.3 percent.

Kentucky’s minimum wage has officially been raised by 70 cents per hour, increasing from $5.85 per hour to $6.55. An additional increase – to $7.25 per hour – is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2009.