FRANKFORT — A bill that would allow government and private entities to enter into public-private partnerships to fund the Commonwealth’s needs has cleared the Kentucky House.
Should it become law, House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, and Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, would provide a framework for the use of these public-private partnerships, or P3s, as an alternative financing method for major public projects and services at the state and local levels as well as certain transportation projects.
The bill would expressly prohibit the authorization of tolls “for any project involving the interstate highway system that connects the Commonwealth with State of Ohio,” which would include the proposed $2.6 billion replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Northern Kentucky and Ohio. Opposition to tolls for the bridge project hampered the passage of P3 legislation in 2015.
“This bill, HB 309, does not—let me repeat—it does not include one specific project in one part of our state that has been so controversial,” said Combs.
P3 legislation did pass the Kentucky General Assembly in 2014. That legislation, HB 407, was vetoed by former Gov. Steve Beshear. Provisions for non-transportation related public-private partnerships in existing law and the bill’s prohibition against entering into P3s with the state of Ohio without legislative scrutiny were given by Beshear as reasons for his veto.
“We’ve been working very hard on P3 legislation the last two years and here we are in 2016 and maybe we can be successful this year,” said Combs. She stressed the bill includes “tight restrictions” to protect taxpayers through public posting of proposed regulations, public hearings, legislative review, and other transparency measures.
HB 309 was passed by the House by a vote of 83-11 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.