FRANKFORT — State road and bridge projects totaling $4.58 billion is proposed in the 2016-2018 state Road Plan approved by the Kentucky House on Tuesday.
House Bill 305, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, would also reduce what budget experts called “over programming” – or projects included over budget – in the proposed state highway plan from $1.63 billion as proposed by the Executive Branch to $797 million as the proposed House plan.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 56-40.
House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation Chair Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, described the Road Plan as austere, impacted by a decrease in state Road Fund revenue in recent years.
“The Road Fund has suffered (since 2014) an annual loss of approximately $201.5 million per year. Of that total… $97 million is lost revenue that we would have revenue-shared back with our struggling local governments. And $104.4 million of that would have gone directly into the state (road) construction account which we could have used…on projects in this plan,” said Combs.
The projects in HB 305 would be paid for through the Transportation Cabinet budget found in HB 304, also sponsored by Rand, which passed the House by a vote of 60-38. That bill would also fund administration and operation of the state Transportation Cabinet, state aviation projects, rail projects and other transportation needs across the state.
Some of those voting against the proposed Road Plan questioned why certain projects were excluded from the document. One of those lawmakers was Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, who was told by Combs that the proposed plan omits road improvements leading to the planned Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County because there aren’t “enough available dollars.”
“We can say it’s because (there’s) no money but… at some point, we really need to stop worrying about who’s in control of the House and start recognizing who’s in control of the universe,” said Linder.
State law requires the General Assembly to adopt the last four years of the six-year road plan—which includes the first two years of funded projects found in HB 305—as a joint resolution that has the force of law but is not included in the statutes. That legislation, House Joint Resolution 91, also sponsored by Rand, passed by a vote of 52-43.
Both bills and the resolution now go to the Senate for consideration.