Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin told the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce he is not opposed to public-private partnerships (P3) in all situations, calling the use of P3s for some building projects a “brilliant solution” but adding that they should not be used on major infrastructure projects.
In a sit-down interview with the Chamber, Bevin sought to present a more nuanced position on public-private partnerships than what he outlined during the Republican primary.
On the topic, Bevin was asked at a June 12 Kentuckians for Better Transportation forum whether he supports the idea of public-private partnerships, an issue strongly supported by the Kentucky Chamber. At the time, Bevin stated: “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.
In the recent sit-down interview, Bevin said his remarks have been miscommunicated and that he is “not opposed to P3s across the board” but again noted some big infrastructure projects as an area he is not in favor of using public-private partnerships.
“As it relates to P3, be thoughtful and smart about whether the taxpayer is going to get a good return. And if private investors want to invest in public student housing, for example, by all means. That is frankly a brilliant solution because there, you are going to get things built in a timely manner and the RIO (return on investment) on that is almost obvious from the moment you start breaking ground,” Bevin said (at 2:00 in the video below). “That is where it should be used, not on critical infrastructure projects that involve interstate commerce.”
Bevin was mainly referring to the Brent Spence Bridge project in northern Kentucky, which seeks to build a partner bridge to the “functionally obsolete” Brent Spence bridge that carries I-75 and I-71 traffic across the Ohio River. In the case of that project, Bevin said he would not support such a partnership because it would all but assure using tolls to pay for it
(more of Bevin’s remarks on this beginning at :45 in the video).
Public-private partnership legislation has failed in previous General Assembly sessions after legislators added amendments to the bill to specifically prohibit tolls on the proposed northern Kentucky bridge. During the 2014 session, that led the governor to veto the bill.
As for how the Brent Spence Bridge project can be funded, there has been a bipartisan call for more federal funding to build the bridge while others say the project can’t be completed without the use of tolls.
When asked about how the state can pay for the multi-billion proposed bridge, Bevin said Ohio and Kentucky must look elsewhere to solve this issue.
“If we in Kentucky and in Ohio, who are on each side of this problem and this opportunity as you might see it, if we each step up in a specific and committed way and let’s say it’s a $3 billion dollar project…if we say we are in for a billion and Ohio is in for a billion, I truly believe we could get the federal government to step up for a billion because there is good precedent for in good faith states coming forward and the federal government coming along side,” Bevin said (at 3:00).
Bevin also added that he believes it is critical to the nation that the issue be addressed but said it is “not a given” that a new bridge is actually needed.
“All we may be doing is pushing the bottleneck by widening it a bit seven miles south. So there are other thoughtful ideas that are being put in place including alternative routes that frankly are much more forward thinking. And I think we would be wise to study them very carefully before we spend any money anywhere,” Bevin said.
To hear more about Bevin’s views on P3 and his plan for the Brent Spence Bridge project including where the billion dollars he mentions would come from, watch the full interview in the video above.
And keep checking Bottom Line for more of the sit-down interview with Bevin and other news.