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We are nearing the end of the 2014 Regular Session, and, much like the week before, controversy hangs over the House because of procedures used to pass Kentucky’s road plan and how to pay for it.
On Tuesday, members of the House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue received a revised version of Governor Beshear’s proposed road plan and budget less than 15 minutes before the start of the meeting, meaning legislators had only a few minutes to review a document more than 220 pages long before a vote was called.
The three bills dealing with the Commonwealth’s road plan for the next six years, and how to pay for it, were brought to the House floor mere hours later. The entire body did not receive copies of the bills until close to noon on Tuesday, again giving precious little time to review the proposals and seek feedback from constituents.
As the bill was being discussed on the House, it was discovered that the majority of road projects in districts represented by Republicans had been removed. All in all, more than $2.7 billion in highway construction over the next six years had been stricken from the Governor’s original plan, including some recently awarded and scheduled to begin construction in the next few months.
The reason for this is simply political retaliation for those of us who stood against raising taxes on Kentuckians by voting no on increasing the gas tax. The General Assembly made a promise to you in 2008 that when the wholesale price of gasoline when down, Kentucky’s gas tax would also decrease. In fact, that happened at the end of 2013 when our gas tax decreased by 1.5 cents per gallon.
All of us in the House are elected to represent roughly the same number of people, around 44,000 per district. The actions taken in the House to strip projects to make our roadways safer and more efficient in selected areas is nothing more than political pettiness and partisan retribution.
The people of our great Commonwealth deserve better than the immature attitude of those who control the budget process, and I encourage you to contact House Democrat leadership and demand they act in the best interest of all of Kentucky. Perhaps someday all of us in the House, no matter what political party we belong to, can work together in a spirit of bipartisanship,instead of operating in a way once reflected in the words of Nancy Pelosi, “You have to pass the bill to see what’s in it.”
Next week is the final full week of the session and it is expected the budget bill and bills dealing with our roadways will head to a conference committee of House and Senate leaders to hopefully reach an agreement.
I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues impacting our Commonwealth during the 2014 Regular Session.
Ron Crimm represents the 33rd state legislative district, which now includes parts of Oldham County. The views in this column are those of the writer.