Gov. Steve Beshear says he’ll call lawmakers back to Frankfort Monday after the General Assembly approved a $4.5 billion, two-year road construction plan that includes more than $27 million in local projects – but not the bill that funds them.
Projects in Franklin County are still on track, but local legislators called news of the special session, which will cost more than $60,000 per day, “regrettable,” “a shame” and “unfortunate.”
Sen. Julian Carroll blamed Senate President David Williams for holding up the road plan budget bill.
“It is absolutely abundantly clear that the individual responsible for the special session having to be called is David Williams,” Carroll, D-Frankfort, told The State Journal today.
“There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in the Senate that David Williams is the individual who would not pass the funding for the road plan until the governor signed the road plan.”
The road plan passed both chambers Thursday, giving Beshear until April 24 to veto portions of the bill before signing it into law.
Beshear, speaking to reporters around 1 a.m. today, also laid blame for the legislature’s inaction on the final day of the 60-day session on Williams, a Burkesville Republican.
“His rank partisanship, his obstructionist attitude, have caused numerous special sessions and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars of unnecessary expenses in having to conduct those special sessions,” Beshear said, adding that he “whooped” Williams by 21 points in the fall election.
Williams called Beshear “a small, petty and vindictive individual,” and said the Senate wanted the governor to sign the road plan into law before passing the funding bill to ensure nothing is vetoed from the two-year construction plan.
He said the Senate would not pass the funding bill during the special session until the road plan becomes law.
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, called the special session unfair for the general public and unfortunate because it pulls legislators from work, family and other commitments in their communities.
“I’m glad the governor said what he said today because he told the truth about what happened,” Graham said. “We just have to go from there. We have to appropriate the money to be able to operate the Transportation Cabinet, put the roads in place and make payments and all that.
“It’s unfortunate, and hopefully over the weekend people come to their senses and come back ready to get things complete.”
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, said he expected the legislature to wrap up its work Thursday, and that special sessions are hard on legislators who have to give up at least five days of work and travel back to Frankfort.
When reminded of House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s comments that the legislature would close the session “by supper” Thursday, Rollins said, “It should have been. I don’t know what was going on, but I don’t see any reason for what happened.
“There may be one that I don’t know about, but it sure could’ve been avoided.”
Construction plans in Franklin County remain largely untouched in the final bill, but some projects stretch beyond the two-year window. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution spelling out road projects through 2018. It passed the House 89-4.
But the entire plan was put into jeopardy late Thursday when lawmakers adjourned without passing a transportation budget to fund the projects.
Key local projects in the two-year plan include $4.5 million to enhance East Main Street from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Schenkel Lane and build a pedestrian bridge between Hathaway and Whitney Young halls on Kentucky State University’s campus; more than $14 million to widen Louisville Road from just west of the South Benson Creek bridge to Vicky Way; more than $4 million to reconstruct Bald Knob Road from Bald Knob hill to Harvieland Road; $1.1 million this year to reconstruct the intersection of Cardwell Lane and C. Michael Davenport Drive; and $100,000 to study traffic flow in downtown Frankfort.
Enhancements on East Main and the pedestrian bridge will cost an additional $3.7 million in fiscal year 2015, if funds are available.
“I’ve been working to keep them in there, but I’m glad that the House members were able to keep them in there,” Carroll said after the Senate approved the biennium plan by 37-0 vote. The bill later cleared the House 77-16.
Graham said the pedestrian bridge would improve safety on KSU’s campus for students and workers. The span over East Main Street would essentially replace the tunnel beneath the road, which is not well lit and holds some of the campus’ fiber optics, he said.
Franklin County is set to receive $3.5 million in the remainder of this fiscal year and $10.9 million and $13.2 million in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, respectively, according to the road plan.
Other local construction projects in the biennium include:
>$2.2 million to correct sight distance issues on KY 151 south of Interstate 64 and accommodate left turn lanes.
>$520,000 to construct a retention basin on the south side of U.S. 421 at milepost 2.
>$260,000 to construct a retention basin on I-64 at milepost 58.
>$230,000 for pavement rehab and bridge widening on I-64 from milepost 47 to milepost 54.
>$105,000 to replace a bridge on U.S. 421 over Little Flat Creek about 4 miles north of KY 12.
>$160,000 to replace a bridge on U.S. 421 over Hudson Creek about 3 miles north of KY 12.
>$180,000 to replace a bridge on U.S. 421 over Flat Creek about 2 miles north of KY 12.
The bill includes funding for the largest project in the state: $2.6 billion for two bridges across the Ohio River in Louisville. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, said the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate agreed that project is a top priority.
The appropriations bill also includes $200 million to widen the heavily traveled Interstate 65, where numerous fatal traffic crashes have occurred in recent years. A crash on a rural stretch of the highway near Munfordville in 2010 killed 11 people, 10 of them members of a Mennonite family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.