After reviewing nearly 400 pages of road project legislation, Governor Steve Beshear today exercised his line-item veto authority, returning some projects to their original funding sources in order to restore fairness and equity to the Road Plan legislation.
Today's action on the Road Plan also eliminates the Senate's single stated reason for not passing the Transportation budget.
Last Thursday, the final day of the regular session, Sen. Williams refused to pass the two-year Transportation budget unless the Governor signed the Road Plan immediately -- despite the fact that the bill had been significantly changed and only four hours remained before the session ended. Gov. Beshear would not sign the bill without properly reviewing it; the state Constitution provides up to ten days for the Governor to review and take action on any bill.
"I will not ignore the due diligence I owe our citizens to review legislation, and in this case, I'm particularly glad we combed through the bill," said Gov. Beshear. "Our review of the Road Plan legislation over the last few days revealed that Sen. Williams took extraordinary steps to enrich his district at the expense of other priority projects in the state."
Road Plan projects to be based on need, not politics
The Road Plan is comprised of two documents -- a two-year project list, and a plan for the following four years. The Governor's recommended Six-Year Road Plan, submitted in January, is based on the priorities determined by engineers in the Transportation Cabinet -- projects that improve safety, ease traffic flow for employers and citizens, or provide critical road maintenance. Kentucky's economy depends on a stable, safe transportation system to support commerce.
The Road Plan has two basic groups of projects: those for which funds are available, and those which can be built only if additional funds become available.
The Governor's original Road Plan recommendation funded $99.9 million in the first two years and an additional $26.4 million in the so-called "out years" for road projects in Sen. Williams district. This is a total of $126.3 million over the next six years for road projects that Transportation engineers considered essential for the communities in Sen. Williams' district. An additional $199 million in projects were approved but left unfunded -- meaning that if additional money were to become available, these projects would be eligible to use that new money.
Almost every Senator and Representative in the General Assembly had a similar mix of funded and unfunded projects. However, late in the session, Sen. Williams made significant changes to the funding sources for projects in his district.
In the final plan approved by the legislature, Sen. Williams guaranteed that every single road project in his district would be fully funded. He shifted his unfunded projects to funded ones -- adding $152 million in project costs to his district over the next six years.
That maneuver has the effect of crowding out $152 million of projects in other areas of the state -- projects that are considered priorities from a transportation and engineering point of view.
"Sen. Williams has essentially moved all his district's road projects to the front of the line, forcing other projects that the Transportation Cabinet and other legislators considered high-priority to wait until additional funding becomes available. It's unfair to the citizens, and it's unfair to the rest of the lawmakers whose districts will suffer," said Gov. Beshear.
Line-Item Vetoes Restore Balance to Road Plan
Gov. Beshear's line-item vetoes on HB 267, the two-year Road Plan document, restore all of Sen. Williams' road projects to the funding status originally recommended in the Governor's Road Plan. Each project the Governor had recommended funding in Sen. Williams' district in the next two years -- all $99.9 million -- will remain intact and funded.
However, the remaining $49.7 million in projects that leveraged taxpayer money from projects in other parts of Kentucky over the next two years will go back to their original, unfunded state.
These actions are not punitive against the citizens of Sen. Williams' district. Instead, the road projects have been restored to their original priority level, so they're evaluated based on their need, not on political maneuvers.
Action on Road Plan Clears Way for Session to Conclude Friday
As recently as this morning, Senate leaders indicated that as soon as the Governor took action on the Road Plan, they would pass the Transportation budget, which would complete the legislative action required to keep the Transportation Cabinet operational.
On Wednesday morning, the House passed the Transportation budget bill and the prescription drug abuse bill, and those bills await action by the Senate.
"Some people have used the Road Plan as an excuse to hold up action on other needed legislation. While I don't agree with that argument, now that I have acted on the Road Plan, that excuse for inaction is eliminated," said Gov. Beshear. "The House has again met its obligations by passing the Transportation budget this morning, there is no reason for the Senate to delay passing that budget and the prescription drug bill right away and end this costly special session on Friday."