Senate passes P3 bill which can be used to finance public construction projects

03/24/2016 08:36 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would open the possibility for public-private partnerships to be used to finance various public construction projects around the state was passed by the full Senate on a 29-9 vote on Thursday.

House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, would provide the framework for the uses of public-private partnerships as an alternative financing tool.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who worked with Combs on the bill in the Senate, says that P3 deals are already part of the daily business in the state, but HB 309 sets up oversight for those deals including a provision that state P3 projects valued at more than $25 million will require approval by the General Assembly. The bill also establishes the Kentucky Local Government Public-Private Partnership Board to review P3 deals with local governments.

Wise says that the main benefit of the legislation is the fact that it makes more projects possible that otherwise may not be completed because of finances.

“Instead of communities coming to us as legislators with two hands out to secure funding for sewer and water projects, convention centers, amphitheaters, sports complexes or even revitalizing our own state parks,” Wise said. “This is a positive
step that may only have to require one handout and not two.”

Sen Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, who was one of nine to vote against the legislation, tried to attach an amendment that would prohibit P3 partners from making political donations to its public partners until three years after the end of the partnership, but that amendment was voted down.

Rep, Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville had problems with the language in the bill that prohibits the authorization of tolls for any project involving the interstate highway system connecting Kentucky to the state of Ohio, which amounts to a no tolls provision
for a new Brent Spence Bridge between Covington and Cincinnati.

“To think we’re in the process of building two bridges in the largest city in our state and we’re going to toll those bridges, the people that use those bridges are going to pay for them, but yet we’re going to write legislation that in one specific part of the state, those bridges can’t be tolled,” Hornback said. “You know, what does that say to the rest of the state?”

Combs, who was in attendance in the chamber when the final vote was taken was appreciative of the Senate members for their support.

“Today’s Senate vote – and the expected final approval in the House of some minor changes – means that Kentucky is about to get a powerful economic development tool that will maximize our tax dollars, give us a chance to take on projects that could only be dreamed about and to do it all in a way that is transparent and accountable to the public,” Combs said. “I want to thank state Sen. Max Wise of Campbellsville for his support and help in guiding it through the Senate, and I deeply appreciate the backing of such groups as the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which has been a great advocate.

“Over the long term, I think this legislation has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching laws we have passed in quite some time.”

The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@charter.com.

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