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Beshear: We Need P3 & Can't Close Door on Tolls

Governor Steve Beshear spoke strongly in favor of legislation related to two issues of importance to Northern Kentucky: heroin abuse and the Brent Spence Bridge.

Beshear appeared before the Kentucky General Assembly on Wednesday night for his final State of the Commonwealth address. The Assembly convened on Tuesday for it short 30-day odd-year session.

On the estimated $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge corridor project, which would reconfigure several miles of I-75 in Covington and Cincinnati as well as build a new companion space next to the existing bridge, Beshear said the legislature needs to pass public-private partnership (P3) legislation particularly as it relates to transportation projects. 

The governor pointed to marinas at state parks, resident halls at the University of Kentucky, managed care in the Medicaid system, and to expand broadband access across the state. "However, we cannot use P3 on transportation projects and folks, that's one of the biggest areas of opportunity," Beshear said. "And we need to fix that."

P3 passed in the 2014 session but Beshear vetoed it following an amendment added by Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) that forbade the legislation to permit tolling on the Brent Spence project. "(The bill) was undercut by an anti-tolling provision tied to a specific project and I vetoed it," the governor said. "We cannot let the opposition of a few people on a single project hold us back from making progress in this state. Nor can we close the door on tolls as a partial solution to any major infrastructure need and folks, we cannot continue to offer our citizens false hope, false hope that Washington is going to whip out its wallet and pay for all our critical needs because we all know better."

In a speech in Covington last month, Beshear said that he would be meeting with Ohio Governor John Kasich to craft a plan to move the bridge project forward.

On Tuesday, the governor was joined by Attorney General Jack Conway in announcing more than $105,000 in funding for 2,000 heroin overdose reversal kits, several hundred of which will be sent to St. Elizabeth Hospitals here in Northern Kentucky. On Wednesday, he called for the legislature to pass an anti-heroin bill, something it failed to do in 2014.

In 2010, the governor said, there were 900 heroin-related cases sent to the Kentucky Crime Lab. In 2014, that number grew to 4,000.

Beshear also railed against smoking and offered his support for the local option sales tax. He also boasted of his successes in office, including the expansion of Medicaid and launch of kynect, the lowering of the unemployment rate in all 120 counties at the same for the first time in history, and improvements in education related to higher graduation and college-career readiness rates.

-Staff report

Photo: Brent Spence Bridge/RCN file