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NKY Lawmakers Talk Options For Brent Spence Repair, Show Little Faith In Help From Federal Govt

brent spence bridge
Al Behrman

Four local lawmakers who participated in a Northern Kentucky Chamber event Tuesday all expressed doubt the federal government would help pay for a new Brent Spence Bridge. They did talk about the possibility of tolls and other local funding.

Chair of the Kentucky Senate Budget Appropriations Committee Rep. Chris McDaniel has heard plenty of presidents and lawmakers promise federal funding for the Brent Spence and it hasn't come through.

"I was down at that bridge when President Obama mentioned it as an infrastructure priority; Speaker Boehner up on the north side; Senator McConnell and Secretary Chao and President Trump mentioned it in one of his speeches; and the money just hasn't been forthcoming," says McDaniel.

McDaniel, a Republican, isn't hopeful the situation will change with the new Biden administration. He says it's time to start looking a little more internally.

Democrat Buddy Wheatley represents Kentucky's 65th District. He is also not optimistic the federal government will come through. "We do need to do something and those other mechanisms - whether they become more local or not - is something I have opened myself up to, but that I'm not all that excited to talk about, like tolls or anything that puts more burden on our people."

Republicans Kimberly Moser, representing the 64th District, and Senator Damon Thayer of the 17th District also agreed Kentuckians shouldn't have to bear the brunt of the cost. According to Moser, "everything's got to be on the table. I'm not a huge proponent of tolls." Thayer says, "It's just unfair to ask Northern Kentuckians to bear 60-65% cost of the bridge when that structure carries 3-5% of the nation's GDP over it."

The question of an increase in the gas tax came up during the Eggs 'N Issues event, sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber.

Wheatley says he would support a new study on how the state looks at it because there are so many alternative fuel-type vehicles and it's a fairness issue.

Kentucky's Budget

The four lawmakers also debated over whether money should be held back for a rainy day or whether it should go to people or businesses who need it.

"Our revenues ended up much higher than we expected and that's a good thing. The bad thing is they ended up much higher than expected because so many Kentuckians are drawing unemployment," says McDaniel. He wants the excess revenues held in the budget reserve.

Democrat Wheatley agrees the money shouldn't be doled out willy nilly but, "There couldn't be more of a need or a time of need than we are in the current pandemic so that's when reserves are needed," he says.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.