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Beshear Vetoes Public Private Partnership Bill, Cites Toll Ban on Brent Spence

Governor Steve Beshear vetoed House Bill 407 late Friday afternoon citing its ban of tolls to be used to finance the Brent Spence Bridge project.

The bill was known as public-private partnership legislation and would have given public agencies more flexibility to work with private industry on capital projects and services by allowing new projects to move forward without state appropriated funds. It was widely viewed as an opening for tolls to be used on the $2.6 billion bridge corridor project through Covington and Cincinnati.

State Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) attached an amendment to the legislation before its passage specifically banning the public-private partnership option from enabling tolls to be used on the bridge. His move was ripped in an editorial by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The so-called P3 legislation was supported by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce though that organization was disappointed by the addition of Simpson's amendment.

"I am vetoing this bill because it encumbers an otherwise well intentioned policy measure with unnecessary elements related to a single, near term project, which should not be enshrined into permanent law," Beshear said in a statement. 

"While House Bill 407 grants broad and necessary authority to governmental entities to utilize P3s for transportation projects generally, it expressly prohibits their use in cases involving the state of Ohio absent additional legislative scrutiny and review. It further expressly prohibits the use of tolls to construct a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge. It is imprudent to eliminate any potential means of financing construction of such a vital piece of infrastructure that serves not only the Commonwealth and the state of Ohio, but also the eastern United States. Issues relating to a single project such as this should not be enshrined into permanent law."

The General Assembly is in session until early next week and could override Beshear's veto.

Chairman of the Northern Kentucky CEO Roundtable, which came out in support of the use of tolls for the project, and former Northern Kentucky University president James Votruba applauded the governor's veto in a statement. "We commend the governor for his leadership in taking this bold step and we encourage the House and Senate to support and uphold the veto," Votruba said. "While we continue to believe public-private partnerships are an innovative approach to funding major infrastructure projects and should continue to be explored and supported by the legislature, enactment of this bill would result in a devastating delay of the Brent Spence Bridge project, which is needed to improve safety, ease gridlock, and increase productivity and business activity in our region."

Photo: Brent Spence Bridge project rendering