KENTUCKY (3/23/14) — The question of how Kentucky will pay for state road and bridge projects through fiscal year 2016 is now before the Senate following House passage last week of our proposed biennial Transportation Cabinet budget bill and proposed two-year state Road Plan.
The House voted last Tuesday to approve both the proposed Road Plan, which includes around $4.5 billion in planned state and federal road and bridge projects through fiscal year 2016, and a nearly $5 billion Transportation budget bill that would fund the proposed plan along with Cabinet administrative and other needs.
House Bill 237, which includes the Road Plan, was amended and passed by a vote of 51-43.
The House voted 52-43 to approve HB 236, which would fund HB 237 and Cabinet operations.
Of the road and bridge projects in the proposed two-year Road Plan, the plan’s sponsors say $1.86 billion are state-funded and $2.7 billion are federal “high-priority” projects. Around $182 million of the projects in the Road Plan are backed by previously authorized state bonds, according to an explanation of the bill given by its sponsors on the House floor. You might remember that we voted the previous week to freeze the so-called “floor” or minimum of the average wholesale price of gasoline at $2.878 a gallon. The purpose of that move was to prevent the Road Fund from losing around $107 million as it was otherwise scheduled to do over the next two year; that “savings” will help fund these proposed projects.
Several projects for our district are in the Road Plan as proposed by the House.
Among those projects are the widening of KY 181 from KY 601 to the Wendell Ford Center, the straightening of Dean Road, and four-laning (with turn lanes) from the old Wal-Mart to US 431.
Major projects elsewhere in the state that are found in the proposed Road Plan are:continued support for the Louisville Bridges Project, which is expected to be funded largely by tolls; approximately $123 million for widening of Mountain Parkway; approximately $22 million in federal funds for the Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky; approximately $148 million for the six-lane of I-65 between Bowling Green and Elizabethtown; approximately $165 million in previously authorized GARVEE bonds for the West Kentucky bridges project; and around $46 million for the I-69 corridor project.
Additional support in the funding bill for the Cabinet and Road Plan that was not found in the Governor’s budget proposal unveiled in January includes, according to the sponsor’s explanation of the bill: $500,000 in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 for river port improvements; $258,900 in each year to restore funding for public transportation; $550,000 in each year for non-public school transportation; restoration of $125 million for the state’s asphalt resurfacing program; and $2 million in bond funds to fully fund the Aviation Economic Development Fund, which supports small general aviation airports in Kentucky.
Besides passage of the proposed two-year Road Plan and legislation that would fund it, the House voted 51-44 to pass House Joint Resolution 62 which includes the last four years of the state’s six-year highway plan, or 2016 through 2020. Projects in those four “out years” of the six-year plan will not be funded over the next two years.
It is pretty clear from the votes in the House that support for all three measures was heavily divided. Many members took issue with the amount of time they were given to review the legislation, all of which were passed out of the House budget committee a few hours before the bills came to the House floor for a vote. Some members also said projects in their districts had been stripped from the two-year Road Plan and placed in the “out years” of the six-year plan found in HJR 62.
Like the Executive Branch budget bill (HB 235) which was expected to come to a vote in the Senate by last Friday or early this week, the Transportation budget and Road Plan proposed by the House will be hashed out by both chambers by session’s end. Nothing is yet final, everything is still in flux.
That said, all budget bills are expected, by law, to be finalized and passed by the time this budget session ends no later than April 15.
I will also mention that the House voted 75-16 Friday to pass HB 31, the eminent domain bill that would prevent companies from claiming eminent domain in order to build natural gas liquids pipelines in Kentucky. The bill was amended to create an exception only for those natural gas liquids that are produced incidentally, or as a result, of oil and gas production in Kentucky. Oil and gas pipelines would not be affected by the legislation.
I voted against HB 31, which not only excludes NGLs from the definition of oil or gas or oil or gas products for the purposes of eminent domain, but would also include a provision making the legislation retroactive so that it would cover any eminent domain action filed on or after Jan. 1, 2014. Given that there is already a court action on this issue in the state and this legislation would intervene in what should be court matters, I feel the bill is not good policy so I do not support it.
Information provided by Brent Yonts
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