The following is an op-ed piece authored by Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts, Commerce Lexington President and CEO Bob Quick, Greater Louisville Inc. President and CEO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, and Northern Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Brent Cooper
Economic development and growth take tremendous strategy and investment. However, Kentucky is blessed with a natural resource that our competitors cannot match or recreate – our central location. This competitive advantage puts Kentucky businesses within a two-day drive of the entire U.S., not to mention the major airports, waterways, and railways that offer additional connectivity with the rest of the globe. Just as important as location is the physical infrastructure that connects us with other parts of the world. Our neglected infrastructure has long been our kryptonite. While it was no easy lift for Congress, we applaud the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package that will bring much-needed investment to Kentucky’s roads, bridges, broadband network, public transit systems, railways, ports, and more.
The $1 trillion package, will be spent on desperately needed physical infrastructure. It includes $550 billion in new spending, an investment over several years on assets that will increase efficiency and reduce inflationary pressures. The bill does not increase taxes on individuals, nor does it alter any provisions from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IISA) decreases the deficit and is a net benefit to the economy over the next 30 years. According to a Penn Wharton analysis. It’s a fiscally responsible bill.
As a state that depends on the reliability of our infrastructure, this massive investment will position our Commonwealth to support and grow existing businesses, attract new and innovative investment, and further solidify our position as an indispensable part of the global economy.
It will not just be a gamechanger for businesses, it will also have a positive impact on Kentuckians. There will be a tangible difference in both quality and safety of roads. Below is a breakdown of what Kentuckians should expect to see at the state level as a result of this legislation, according to a White House Fact Sheet:
- $4.6 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs
- $647 million to improve water infrastructure across the state and ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities
- $438 million for bridge replacement and repairs
- Kentucky can also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges
- Nearly $16 billion in national funding is dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities
- $204 million for infrastructure development at airports
- A minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state
- $69 million to support the expansion of an EV charging network in the state
- $19 million to protect against wildfires
- $18 million to protect against cyberattacks
The $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program will allow Kentucky to compete for a grants to fund major projects like the Brent Spence companion bridge in Northern Kentucky and the I-69 bridge project in Henderson. Both of these bridge projects should be addressed as soon as possible, and we have heard from Kentucky Secretary of Transportation Jim Gray recently that preliminary work is in progress to ensure the state maximizes its potential in terms of its federal allocation.
While the dire needs of Kentucky’s bridges will play a factor in securing federal grants, the state will also need to provide matching funds at some level in order to draw down those federal dollars. Chambers across the state will continue advocacy efforts for increased funding at the state level, to ensure federal money is not left on the table.
This once in a generation investment would not have been possible without the bipartisan work of two Kentucky leaders. We applaud Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth for putting politics aside and putting Kentuckians first by supporting this legislation to bring much-needed jobs and investment to the Commonwealth. This is an important lesson that when lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together to compromise for the betterment of the people, good things often happen.
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