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Panel OKs $3.4 billion highway budget

FRANKFORT — The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee passed a road plan Monday that included more than $3.4 billion for highway projects over the next two years.

But some Republicans on the committee complained that House Bill 292 was being rushed through committee and that projects originally included in Gov. Steve Beshear's road plan had been removed or pushed back several years.

That shouldn't have been a surprise to the Republicans, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Stumbo said the 34 Republicans in the House who voted against a $371 million revenue-raising measure Thursday would likely see no school improvements and few road projects in their districts. The House budget proposal — which will likely be voted on this week — includes nearly $1 billion in projects.

"People who voted against the revenue bill thought there was not a problem with jobs in their community," Stumbo said.

Nine House Republicans decided not to vote or voted "pass" on House Bill 292 on Monday, with 19 Democrats voting for it.

Rep. Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville, asked the committee to adjourn for a few hours to give members more time to digest the legislation and the changes the House had made to Beshear's proposal. But House Budget Chairman Rick Rand, D-Bedford, overruled the motion.

DeWeese decided to vote "pass" on the measure.

"I'm not trying to be obstinate or stubborn," DeWeese said about his vote. "It's too much rush."

Rep. Jaime Comer Jr., R-Tompkinsville, whose district includes Cumberland, Monroe and Metcalfe counties, said several projects for the district were in Beshear's proposal but were not in House Bill 292. "Is that just a coincidence?" he asked.

Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, chairman of a House budget transportation subcommittee, said she could not say how many projects that were in Beshear's proposal had been pushed back or delayed.

But Stumbo said earlier Monday the House was trying to fund road projects that were already in the pipeline and took out new projects that were included in Beshear's two-year road plan. Beshear's plan called for about $3.6 billion in projects.

Fayette County got more money in total transportation dollars under the House plan — about $191 million, compared with Beshear's proposal of $174 million. Beshear's proposal included about $101 million for actual construction. The remaining money was for buying land, moving utilities or design and engineering.

The House plan includes $118 million for construction in Fayette County. No Fayette County projects were added in the House plan, but some projects got more money sooner.

For example, the widening of Leestown Road got an additional $ 1 million, bringing the cost of the project to $14 million.

House Bill 292 will likely go to the full House for a vote Tuesday.