How the Senate got more projects in its list using less revenue than the House

03/26/2014 07:52 PM

As the Senate Transportation Committee swiftly passed the two-year road plan without debate Wednesday morning, the panel’s chairman, Sen. Ernie Harris, repeatedly boasted that the measure was “balanced” — that it didn’t stuff in more projects than Kentucky could pay for.

The Senate pulled that off even though it placed road projects the House had taken out back into the bill and without nearly $120 million in gas tax revenue from a 2.2 cent increase in the gas tax the House approved.

How? Legislative math.

The total worth of all the projects listed in the Senate’s version came out to $5.4 billion. That’s nearly a billion dollars more than the total cost of all the projects outlined in the House version, $4.5 billion.

But that figure includes the entire cost of each project — not the actual dollars spent. In terms of actual bucks on the books, the Senate plan contains about $3.6 billion worth of road and bridge construction, as compared to $3.9 billion in the House plan. There’s the difference.

House leaders had completely removed projects from the bill altogether when passing a plan that stripped many of those roads out of the districts of Republicans who who didn’t vote for the gas tax increase provision.

Harris told reporters the Senate version puts those projects back on its list, but pushes the construction phases for some of the projects off to later years because many of those projects are still in the planning or right-of-way-purchasing phases.

The Senate version of the road plan cleared the committee Wednesday morning before passing the full Senate 28-0 with 10 Democrats passing because they had just a few hours to review the changes to the bill.

The bill still includes the mega projects on the state’s transportation wish-list, including:

- $124 million for the first phase of expanding a portion of the Mountain Parkway to four lanes – the next payment for the Louisville bridges project – the next down payment on planning and starting a new bridge to be a companion to the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky – the next phase of widening I-65 in southern Kentucky – payments for new bridges in western Kentucky – and $129 million for converting the Purchase Parkway into I-69.

Now the measure heads to a conference committee, where House and Senate leaders already are trying to hash out differences over state spending in the $20 billion two-year executive branch budget.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.