Brent Spence Bridge project becomes another campaign issue for U.S. Senate candidates

06/20/2014 03:18 PM

The need for a new bridge in northern Kentucky is taking center stage in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race as both candidates introduced their own funding plans Friday and are arguing over which plan is less likely to pass Congress.

Republican U.S. Senator Mitch Mitch McConnell told press and attendees at an event with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce that he will be introducing legislation to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act — also known as the federal prevailing wage.

Prevailing wage law requires that construction workers on public building or construction projects get paid a certain rate based on regional averages.

McConnell argued that the prevailing wage was inflating the costs of public projects and said the legislation, which dates back to the great depression, was “older and more obsolete than the Brent Spence Bridge.”

The Kentucky senior senator cited a study by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office that said repeal of the act could save $13 billion over ten years.

“That $13 billion could be much better spent building a number of interstate bridges that are sorely needed in communities across America, like here in northern Kentucky,” McConnell said at the chamber event.

Before McConnell addressed the Northern Kentucky Chamber, the campaign of Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes sent out a statement criticizing McConnell by linking back to comments McConnell has made about the project as well as other votes in Congress to say he has done nothing to move the project forward.

And in another battle of press releases, Grimes released her own plan for the bridge after the McConnell criticized her campaign for offering political attacks but no ideas of her own.

In the release, the campaign said the five bullet points presented was her plan to “rebuild the Brent Spence Bridge” without using tolls.

Grimes’ plan consists of suggestions taken from a report by the U.S. Senate Budget Committee to cut tax loopholes.

The original report was drafted by the group as suggested ways to replace sequestration cuts but in the statement, the Grimes campaign says the plan could also “cover the looming short term shortfall in the Federal Highway Trust Fund and as a part of that effort ensure that the Brent Spence Bridge project is fully funded.”

The five points, out of twelve suggestions put forward by the group, Grimes puts forward in her plan include:

  • Closing the “corporate jet loophole”
  • Closing a loophole that allows companies to mischaracterize income as business profit

  • Ending tax deductions for shipping jobs overseas
  • Eliminating a loophole that allows U.S. companies to avoid U.S. taxes by claiming foreign status
  • Limiting corporate deductions for excessive executive stock options

Assuming the proposed loopholes were cut and it was voted on that the money come back to Kentucky, Grimes said in the statement it would be more than enough for the bridge project.

“Taking these five steps identified by the Senate Budget Committee would produce almost $75 billion in revenue over 10 years – more than enough to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project fully, with any leftover revenue dedicated to bringing down the federal deficit,” Grimes said.

Suggestions from the original document not included in Grimes’ plan pertain to stopping tax subsidies for yachts and vacation homes, limiting Wall Street gaming, closing estate tax loopholes for wealthy Americans and more.

As for whether or not either plan would pass in Congress, Grimes’ proposal would likely be thwarted by the Republican controlled U.S. House. McConnell criticized Grimes’ plan in his remarks as a political ploy to raise taxes.

And similarly, the Grimes campaign called McConnell’s plan an “unserious scheme to distract the people of Northern Kentucky from his 30-year lack of interest”.

McConnell himself acknowledged the obstacles his legislation would face through the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate before it would even get to the president who would likely veto the legislation.

At the state level, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said in a statement Friday McConnell has not helped the project, move than a decade in the making, move along at all.

“Sen. McConnell has had 30 years to act on this project and has done absolutely nothing to move it forward. I remain committed to the completion of the Brent Spence Corridor project. The ultimate financing plan for the project will be based on funding realities – not on wishful political proposals during a campaign just to get votes,” Beshear said in the statement.


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