Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

March 18, 2014

Road plan passes House over Republican protest

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI

FRANKFORT — Democrats pushed through the state House a two-year, $4.5 billion road plan as Republicans protested they weren’t given time to study the measure and some projects were removed from their districts after they voted against freezing the motor fuels tax last week.

The $4.5 billion includes ongoing projects carried forward from the current year.

The vote was a foregone conclusion after the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted the bill out Tuesday morning and House leadership announced it would face a vote by the full House that afternoon.

Republicans offered several procedural objections in an effort to delay the vote by one day. Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said Republicans’ intent to provide “simply an opportunity for all lawmakers to see what’s in the bill.”

He said the bill wasn’t made available to Republicans or reporters “until 11 a.m. (Tuesday) morning.”

Republican Whip John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, said Republicans are only “asking for one day to be transparent.”

When Hoover moved to delay the vote for one day, Carney said voting for Hoover’s motion “is a vote for transparency.  A vote against may mean you don’t want to hear from your constituents.”

Hoover offered a series of motions to delay the vote but Republicans who have 46 members to Democrats’ 54 lost each vote.

Carney also claimed funding for projects for his district and those of other Republicans which were included in Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed road plan had been removed by Democrats to punish Republicans for voting against a measure to freeze the motor fuels tax last week.

The House passed a revenue bill last week which locked in the motor fuels tax at 30.8 cents per gallon, an amount tied to wholesale prices in December but which would have fallen by 2.2 cents in April as wholesale.

Republicans say that’s a broken pledge because when lawmakers last locked in a new motor fuels tax floor in a previous session, they promised to let the tax fall back to that point with any future drops in wholesale prices.

“House (Democratic) leadership is punishing our constituents because of our vote on the gas tax,” Carney said earlier Tuesday. He said he felt “disgraced by the process” and said $43 million was removed from his Taylor County district because of his vote.

Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, chairs the budget transportation subcommittee and she defended the plan on the floor during the debate, saying it spread funding across the state and included projects in Republican districts. She also said without freezing the gas tax, the road fund would face a devastating under funding problem.

It also includes $123 million for widening and extending the Mountain Parkway to Prestonsburg. That was actually less than the $129 million proposed by Beshear and the House plan also moves money from the Louisville bridges project and another $38 million from the northern Kentucky Brent Spence Bridge.

Combs said those funds were used to help other areas of the state and the Transportation Cabinet had found other ways to replace some of the money for the bridges projects.

In the end, the measure passed 51-43 with only Republican Jim Steward, R-Flat Lick, joining Democrats in voting for the measure. Democrat Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, voted against the bill.

The measure now goes to the Republican controlled Senate which is likely to make changes. Like the budget, the road plan will likely end up in conference committee between the two chambers with some sort of compromise bill ultimately passing the legislature.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.