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Massie: No Federal Funds for Brent Spence Project

Congressman Thomas Massie said Thursday morning that there would be no federal funds available for the Brent Spence Bridge.

In a conference call with reporters, including The River City News, Massie said there was "no magic pot of money".

"So people shouldn't expect that Washington, DC in the next two years is going to come in with a check for $3 billion to fund it. I just don't see it happening," the first-term Republican from Lewis County said. "That's why I take the position to say it's not really my place because I don't have the check to bring back from Washington, DC."

"To say you can't toll this, you can't do this funding mechanism or these bonds, you can't do these loans, it would be wrong for me to place those constraints on the project."

Massie said that the Highway Trust Fund in DC is underfunded, spending $44 billion nationally while only bringing in $33 billion in fuel tax revenue. "So, it's running an $11 billion deficit and that is another problem in and of itself without factoring in the Brent Spence Bridge and other bridges that need to be built," he said. 

"I'm here working on the federal side of it. It's really a legislative issue in Frankfort."

The Kentucky Legislature, which is in session currently, is not likely to pass a mechanism that would allow tolls to be collected on the Brent Spence Bridge project, a $3 billion project that would create a new space directly to the west of the current bridge. So far, the only proposals on the table to fund the project include toll revenues.

The Covington City Commission on Tuesday night was divided on whether tolls should be used with three commissioners saying they are opposed to tolls and Mayor Sherry Carran arguing that it is time to change the dialogue because she sees no alternative where tolls are not used.

"I'd like to see more money sent to Kentucky to work on the interstates and bridges," Massie said. 

Will continue effort to roll back Obamacare

With the federal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in effect and with 200,000 people enrolled in Kentucky's kynect program, made possible through the federal program, Massie said he will continue to fight to roll back the law.

He no longer sees a path to full repeal.

"I really don't think you can go from day to night, you can't just turn off Obamacare like a switch because this thing is taking root," he said. "You have to figure out a way to incrementally roll it back." Massie said he hopes to restore what he called free market principles that create plans people want to buy and not plans that people feel forced to buy through Obamacare.

Massie also expressed concern that while 200,000 people have enrolled in the program in Kentucky, most have them have been placed in the expanded Medicaid pool and not in private plans.

"I talked to Blue Cross Blue Shield and most of their private plans have been canceled in Kentucky, so if you take out Medicaid, I believe we're still running a huge deficit in terms of the number of people who have lost their health care over the ones who have gained health care," he said.

Legislative victory with hemp amendment
Massie is celebrating a legislative victory with his industrial hemp amendment that passed with the federal Farm Bill.
"The big news for me is we got the industrial hemp amendment I offered," he said, "so that's actually going to be law now."
Industrial hemp will now be legal to grow in Kentucky as long as it is part of a university project or state pilot program. "It was pretty incredible to get that in there," he said.
Two other top stories from Massie's office, the Congressman said, are his efforts to work on reforming the Patriot Act and another round of debt limit talks. "I really think, and I'm hopeful that we'll figure out a way to get this behind us because, the analogy I use is, we set up the chess pieces the same way they were set up last time. We don't have to go through the exercise of playing the game," he said. 
Massie also talked about his position on immigration. He said he places himself among those Republicans who think legal immigration can be improved, borders can be better secured, and worker visas can be addressed. However, he thinks any changes should wait until the Republicans possibly regain control of the Senate next year.
2014 campaign will look like 2012
Massie did not draw a primary challenger and will face Peter Newberry, a Democrat from Berry, in November.
"I jokingly said that not drawing a primary challenger either means I'm doing a good job or this place is so screwed up that nobody wants this job," Massie said. "It could be the latter. There are a lot of good people who could run for Congress and do a better job than me but say it's not worth beating my head against the wall."
He said he's happy to avoid a primary challenge so that he can focus on his job over the next six months.
"As far as the general election, I haven't looked into the policies of the Democrat that's running," Massie said. "If I see him put a website up or issue a press release, I can comment on that. I haven't seen even a Facebook on the campaign there."
"My campaign in 2014 will look like my campaign in 2012 which is to focus on jobs and the economy and debt and spending," Massie said. "We do that with tax reform and regulatory relief and in some small measure, that's what the hemp amendment is about. It's about rolling back one misguided regulation so we can allow private industry to create jobs."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News