Williams says Senate will act on road funding even after Beshear's vetoes of Williams' projects

04/18/2012 05:26 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear used his veto pen on Wednesday to slice $49.7 million worth of road construction out of Senate President David Williams’ district, while Williams said the governor blinked by agreeing to rest of the road construction plan this week.

But even as that squabbling continued between those two political foes, the governor’s approval of the rest of the road plan increased the likelihood that the Senate could approve it Friday and end the special session in the minimum five days.

“First I’d like to say that I’m very pleased that the governor signed the road plan,” Williams told reporters after the Senate adjourned late Wednesday afternoon. He called Beshear’s line-item vetoes “not only vindictive but unconstitutional.”

“But since he just directed it at me and his statement at me, we will proceed” on voting on the road project funding bill, Williams said. “I think the governor needs to seek some counseling about his hate for me.”

Just before the Senate convened at 4 p.m., Beshear announced he made several line-item vetoes to the road project priority list the legislature approved Thursday — the last day of the regular session. At the time, Williams wanted Beshear to sign into law that priority list before the Senate would pass the road funding bill, and Beshear wanted the Senate to approve the funding before he would sign off on the priority list.

In the end, Beshear kept $99.9 million he initially recommended in construction for roads in Williams’ southern Kentucky district. But he took out $49.7 million Williams had put in during negotiations with the House.

“The 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,” Beshear’s statement said.

But Williams said the governor’s vetoes reduced per capita spending in his district to $700, compared to about $2,400 for Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s district in Floyd County. That includes removing from the priority list improvements to U.S. 127.

“I only hope for the governor’s sake and conscience no one is killed on U.S. 127,” Williams said. “If the governor can live with this, I can live with this — if he has no conscience.”

Williams also said he believed it was unconstitutional for Beshear to issue line-item vetoes on the road project bill because it isn’t an appropriations bill, as section 88 of the constitution calls for.

But he said he is not going to challenge that. “I’m not real big on suing,” said Williams. Since becoming Senate president in 2000, Williams has intervened in a lawsuit over the state budget in 2002 and went to court over the eligibility of a state Senate candidate from 2004.

The House of Representatives passed the Road Funding bill Wednesday morning and now can be taken up in the Senate, starting with a committee Thursday.

- Additional reporting by Ryan Alessi


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