FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's House approved nearly $440 million for Jefferson County road and bridge projects after Democrats sparked controversy by slashing other construction plans.
The state's two-year, $4.5 billion infrastructure spending plan delays some projects that Gov. Steve Beshear recommended, such as the long-proposed Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky, because Beshear's proposal was "way over-programmed," said Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville.
"We basically had to start over," Combs said. "We started this thing from scratch and re-built it."
Republicans said they didn't have enough time to look over hundreds of pages of road and bridge plans before voting Tuesday. They also claimed Democrats disproportionately cut projects in GOP districts in retaliation for Republicans refusing to vote for a 1.5 cent increase in the gas tax last week.
"It's a disgrace to be a member of this body today. I never thought I'd say that," said Rep. Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville.
Combs denied that politics played a role in the decision process, pointing to a handful of big-ticket construction projects in Republican districts that remained in the road plan.
"Obviously that (gas tax) money is necessary in terms of sustaining this road fund plan, or we would have to cut more," she said.
The House's vote was mostly along party lines. The road plan now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, which is certain to change the proposal.
The spending plan includes millions of dollars for everything from widening Jefferson County highways to fixing Louisville sidewalks.
It calls for spending about $3.1 million to convert several one-way streets in downtown Louisville to two-way traffic, and includes money to widen the westbound ramp from Interstate 64 to Interstate 264 westbound.
The road plan decreases funding for the Ohio River Bridges project, but it won't affect the scheduled January 2017 opening because previous budgets had "double-booked" money for the construction, Combs said.
At a House budget committee meeting earlier Tuesday, a representative from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said agency leaders would unveil by July how they plan to help low-income workers pay for tolls on the Ohio River Bridges.
After hearing that, two Louisville lawmakers shelved their plan to provide up to a $500-a-year tax break to low-income workers when tolls start on the Ohio River bridges.
About 3,800 low-income workers make a daily commute from Kentucky to Indiana for work, said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, one of the bill's sponsors.
"We have time to address this, and I'd rather work in a cooperative manner," Wayne said.
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