Infrastructure remains top of mind for Kentucky legislators

By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky

Lots of talk surrounding Kentucky’s infrastructure remains up in the air.

Governor Andy Beshear stressed the importance of roadways and transportation in his most recent State of the Commonwealth address, but many groups are still not satisfied with the state’s current situation.

Building Kentucky recent covered comments from Kentucky General Assembly members during the Kentuckians for Better Transportation conference on the state’s transportation challenges including funding issues.

What’s at stake and how could legislative reform help Kentucky’s infrastructure?

Beshear adds broadband access

In his 2021 State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address, Gov. Beshear announced the state would be providing $50 million to fund the last mile of broadband access.

Gov. Beshear said COVID-19 has revealed broadband goes beyond business and extends into every facet of our lives from healthcare to education. Opportunities like telehealth will make jobs more of a reality in places like eastern Kentucky.

Another area in his budget for 2021 is the transportation sector. Gov. Beshear said investing in transportation will create jobs, stimulate the economy and encourage future growth.

Fees on alternative-fuel cars

On Feb. 11, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis was filed that would increase annual fees for hybrid or electric car drivers to help boost the state’s road fund.

This bill would also remove the state’s longstanding connection between gas taxes and wholesale gas prices, and instead tie it to a national construction index.

Officials said House Bill 508 is primarily focused on preparing for more alternative-fuel cars on the roads. The fees placed on these drivers would be paid at the end of the year and is dependent on the weight of the vehicle. The bill also seeks to add surcharges to tractor-trailer and other oversized vehicle drivers.

Kentucky Chamber leads gas tax charge

House Bill 508 takes a different approach than reforms backed by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties and others.

These groups have been fighting to increase the gas tax by at least 10 cents, which serves as the main source of funding for Kentucky’s infrastructure, and a change in the formula of funding specifying how these dollars are divvied up to the county and city governments.

The Kentucky Chamber-led coalition of 25 business and industry groups has called on Kentucky legislators to take action. Leaders in the group said this type of legislation is needed to improve Kentuckians’ quality of life.

The group points to heavily trafficked roads like Louisville’s River Road that could benefit from an increase in fees. This road floods often and could be widened and elevated to reduce much of the flooding.

Leaders at Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI) stressed Kentucky’s importance as a logistics hub for the nation and the need for quality roads and infrastructure to connect people and places around the state.

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