Kentucky House approves $4.5 billion road plan, despite objections

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kentucky state lawmakers are working on a plan to pay for construction and maintenance of roads and bridges across the state.

The House voted largely along party lines on Tuesday, March 18, to advance a two-year, $4.5 billion road funding plan that relies on a fuel tax increase. By a vote of 52-44, the Democrat-led chamber voted to send the funding plan, HB236, to the Republican-led Senate where changes are expected to be made to the bill.

Also approved along party lines was HB237, which includes the 220-page project list.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, balked at the plan. He said the list was kept hidden from lawmakers until the minutes leading up to the floor vote. He also claimed that $2.7 billion in road projects were removed from the original six-year plan in areas represented by Republicans.

“This is nothing more than political retribution because House Republicans stood up against increasing the gas tax,” Hoover said during discussion about the project list. “To ask our citizens to pay more at the pump, while at the same time picking and choosing where the money goes is reprehensible and all Kentuckians should be outraged.”

One week ago, House lawmakers voted 53-44 to send a bill to the Senate that would raise the state’s fuel tax rates back to where they were at the end of last year.

Thanks to partially tying the state’s tax rates to the average wholesale price of fuel, changes in the excise tax for gas and diesel are automatic. In January, the tax was reduced from 32.3 cents per gallon for gas to 30.8 cents. The 29.3-cent rate for diesel dipped to 27.8 cents.

A provision included in the bill – HB445 – would also make sure the tax rates don’t drop in the future.

Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, denied Hoover’s accusations on the House floor. She said HB237 had more projects included than funds available to complete the work, which required the wish list to be trimmed.

She also said the plan would spread available funds throughout the state, including Republican districts.

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