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Grimes in Covington: Will Fight Tolls on Brent Spence Bridge

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes spoke to the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce at the Metropolitan Club in Covington on Friday.

She addressed what she viewed as many accomplishments during her first term in office but also took time to speak as a candidate.

Grimes is the presumptive Democratic nominee for US Senate where she will likely face Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

Of arguably the most pressing issue facing Northern Kentucky, Grimes said she would be a champion for the Brent Spence Bridge project, a transportation priority that she hopes won't have tolls used as a funding method.

"You here in Northern Kentucky, you know the potential that exists for economic prosperity but what we all know is Washington is so paralyzed by politics and partisanship and rancor that we haven't been able to unlock that potential," Grimes told the room.

"It has kept this region of the state from getting the much needed assistance it is due. The top of the list: the Brent Spence Bridge project and surrounding access highways that are needed. It's important and its economic impact is equally as obvious."

Grimes said she would be a champion for the project whereas McConnell is what she called "a chatterbox". She also said that Northern Kentucky is suffering from an economic drain because of the lack of progress on the multi-billion project.

"We can't put a price tag on the human lives at stake because we don't have the federal funding for this vital project. I know I'm preaching to the choir here but what we haven't had is someone who is advocating, someone who is fighting to bring that here."

She said that she doesn't want to see the project happen with "tolls on the backs of Northern Kentuckians".

A highway plan released this week by Governor Steve Beshear factors in more than $1.7 billion in toll revenue bonds. A plan jointly released by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation also included tolls as a primary method to fund the project.

Secretary Grimes also said that she would fight for higher education in the region and throughout the Commonwealth. She visited recently with Northern Kentucky University President Geoffrey Mearns.

"I know the importance of the (educational) institutions and the role they play in the vitality of our economy," Grimes said. "As your next senator I will be the champion we need for promoting our research at higher institutions."

The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport was also a topic. "I have also witnessed the decrease in activity in our Northern Kentucky airport," Grimes said. "I know how frustrating it is for each and every one of you. As your senator I will work tirelessly to make sure we increase the activity (at the airport)."

Grimes also listed her Northern Kentucky bona fides, boasting of being born in Mason County and having relatives from and in Newport.

She is also keenly aware of the heroin epidemic plaguing the region, something she said could be combated with better educational opportunities and employment chances.

"I believe Kentucky families deserve better, a good quality of life and a good paying job," Grimes said. "The opportunities, they are endless for where Kentucky will go."
 
She expects to use some of the successes she has had as Secretary of State in her new role as senator, if elected. One of those efforts would be a federal version of the One Stop Shop online portal she created to make it easier for Kentucky businesses to communicate with its government. "To spur economic growth in urban areas like Northern Kentucky, we have to tap into the market that we know Washington hasn't allowed to be unlocked," she said.
 
"We start by cutting red tape and allowing our businesses to do what they do best," Grimes continued. "We've done that in the office of Secretary of State and it's time we have a partner in the Senate."
 
Grimes articulated that she favors a one-time chance for businesses to repair tax filling errors without fines, the encouragement of entrepreneurship and innovation, and tax credits for those who invest in research and development.
 
The Democrat reiterated her support for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. "That's what we need to be doing," Grimes said.
 
"It makes good business sense to be doing it. It lifts one in four Kentuckians' wages, increases the gross domestic product, and (increases) annual earnings by thirty-percent." She also claimed that it would create more than two thousand new jobs in Kentucky.
 
Grimes also supports what she called "leveling the playing field with China", a nation that she claims engages in currency manipulation and one that benefits from an American trade deficit.
 
"It is time we have someone in Washington, DC that (doesn't look) to special interests and Washington partisan politics to find answers. It is the best and brightest and the businesses of Kentucky that are the strength."
 
She said she would be someone who brings more "Kentucky" to Washington. "There is not enough of it now," Grimes said.
 
"I'll never forget where I came from. More importantly, I will never forget what I'm about and who I represent."
 
Story & photo by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News