Kentucky Association of Counties

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The Kentucky Association of Counties

Legislative leaders address Kentuckians for Better Transportation conference

Gracie Lagadinos
Lawmakers joined two panel discussions, both focused on the dire need for transportation investment across the Commonwealth. The common theme of both conversations was the likelihood of a gas tax being passed during this legislative session.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Senator Jimmy Higdon (R- Casey, Jefferson, Marion, Nelson, Spencer), House Speaker David Osborne (R- Oldham), House Transportation Committee Chair Ken Upchurch (R- McCreary, Pulaski, Wayne), House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins (D- Jefferson), Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey (D- Jefferson) and Representative Sal Santoro (R- Boone) addressed hundreds of local officials during the annual KBT Conference which was held virtually.

Both parties stressed the importance of increased funding. However, they noted many hurdles they must overcome, including support not only in the House and Senate Chambers but also from the Governor’s office.

For the fourth session in a row, Santoro will file a bill aimed at increasing the state’s tax on gasoline. He shared that he has had many positive conversations with Rocky Adkins, Senior Advisor to Governor Beshear, and Transportation Secretary Jim Gray. Santoro said he intends to file the bill during the first week when lawmakers return in February; however, hurdles are still prevalent.

“I believe there will be significant support for the bill in the House,” said Osborne. Santoro urged listeners to call their Senators and ask for the support of increased funding. He stated that he would not have his fellow house members take a tough vote on an increased tax if there is no guaranteed Senate support.

McGarvey expressed overwhelming support for increased infrastructure funding. He urged majority members to file a stand-alone gas tax bill versus incorporating other pieces of legislation with it. He stated Democratic members might not be able to support the legislation if additional topics are included.

Higdon said Sec. Gray and his staff “have been excellent to work with,” sharing information from across the state. Asked what more advocates for the increase could do, he replied, “You all do a good job of helping inform our members, and that’s a big job, especially in the House. There’s an education process. Passing legislation is a process. You’ve got to make changes along the way. When the House passes it, it will come to the Senate and it will undergo changes in the Senate and it will then go to conference committee. If you lose out at any stage along the way, there’s always the next stage. Be supportive and follow along with the changes. A lot of things can happen. We appreciate the input and we do want to hear from you, so don’t be strangers.”

All panelists agreed that local support is critical. Please call and email your legislators asking for their support of this crucial issue.

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