At an appearance before the Kentuckians for Better Transportation group, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin and Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Sannie Overly discussed transportation issues in Lexington Friday.
The first to give remarks, Overly—a state representative from Paris—described her background as an engineer and her advocacy of transportation issues in her legislative role. Overly detailed her time as chair of the Transportation Budget Subcommittee, working to pass the bill to authorize the Louisville bridges project.
Through her research on funding the Louisville bridges, Overly said she discovered that Indiana had “more tools in their tool box” than Kentucky including the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to pay for the bridge project.
Overly explained this discovery was part of her reasoning for sponsoring a P3 bill for transportation projects in Kentucky during the 2009 legislative session.
Overly stated that her running mate, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, is a proponent of P3s and will take lead on the issue during the upcoming session if elected governor.
On the topic, GOP candidate Bevin was asked whether or not he supports the idea of public-private partnerships. In response, Bevin stated simply “I’m not a fan of P3s.” He continued by adding that Kentucky must prioritize roads and that if the state cannot pay for projects as they go, the project should be re-evaluated—similar to his remarks in the Kentucky Chamber’s primary voter guide.
Passing P3 legislation to provide an explicit framework for the use public-private partnerships as an alternative method of procurement, construction, or financing of capital projects and services by state government has been a top priority of the Kentucky Chamber.
Bevin stated his opposition to tolling on the Brent Spence Bridge project in northern Kentucky and suggested that Kentucky use bonds for large projects such as these as well as funds allocated from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
In his opening remarks at the event, Bevin told the crowd about his background and talked about the campaign, but said little about transportation.
When asked by members of the audience, Bevin said he was supportive of efforts to freeze the gas tax during the 2015 session in order to stabilize the road fund, a top priority of the Kentucky Chamber, but added the state needs to be smarter with gas tax funds and save when there is excess so that the situation does not arise again.
Overly, who voted in favor of the compromise bill to stabilize the road fund, discussed her support of the issue and said the effort took leadership from the governor, a role she believes their ticket would provide if elected.
While both candidates said they were in favor of these efforts, Overly noted that the fund is still facing a multi-million dollar shortfall even after the legislation.
Because of the issue, both Bevin and Overly talked about restructuring the way road fund revenues are calculated. The candidates were asked about the concept being adopted by some states moving towards a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) model, a policy of charging motorists based on how many miles they have traveled.
In response, Bevin stated he is normally not in favor of the VMT model but said Kentucky needs to look at what other states are doing and learn from their best practices.
Overly said the state needs to look at the formula which is currently funding the road plan but implied there’s not a critical need to make changes to that formula at this time.