Beshear calls for infrastructure investments to maintain economic momentum
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear proposed investing more in Kentucky infrastructure Tuesday as part of a series of budget recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. Beshear called for more funding for clean water systems, affordable housing and ways to entice companies to relocate.
Beshear’s infrastructure plan is similar to his recommendations for the previous biennial budget, focusing on large investments to create and maintain economic growth and improve infrastructure, like roads, bridges and water systems.
Beshear called for lawmakers to allocate $500 million for a grant pool dedicated to updating old and poorly-maintained water and wastewater systems. Last year, the legislature dedicated the same amount in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to the pool. But Beshear said more funding is needed to expand cleaner water access in the state.
“This $500 million grant pool means that we can do projects without raising rates on our families and the ratepayers in those areas,” Beshear said. “It means we could do more to address water systems that are significantly aging, to make sure that we can not only get clean drinking water to those that don't have it, but improve service and continue service.”
Beshear said investing in water infrastructure will also provide financial relief to Kentuckians by keeping rates constant.
“There's lots of ways to provide relief. I think we look at all of them,” Beshear said. “But we've got to do it sensibly, knowing that we've got to look over 10 or 20 years to see what's sustainable. We want to provide as much relief to our people as possible while still being able to provide the services that are absolutely necessary.”
Beshear’s Republican opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election Attorney General Daniel Cameron has advocated for providing relief by eliminating the state income tax.
In a statement, Cameron said Beshear’s plan is made of “empty promises” that won’t have a chance in the Republican-led legislature.
“Kentuckians are rejecting Bidenomics and its failed economic policies that have given us 40-year record high inflation and drained our savings accounts. Andy follows Joe Biden and shares his views on every issue,” Cameron said. “I have the relationships to deliver on my promises. Andy Beshear does not.”
Beshear also called for an additional $200 million in the state’s site development fund to help attract major private investments to Kentucky. The fund allows the state to prepare sites in advance and speed up the process for companies building new facilities.
“Having put in the prep on the sites makes us more competitive than our neighboring states. To date, more than 47 counties have received funding to help develop more build-ready sites, and a second round of funding is on its way.”
Beshear’s plan also includes $10 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which the General Assembly created in 1992 to fund housing development for low-income Kentuckians. Beshear said it would be the first investment of general funds in nearly 20 years.
“This should supercharge the construction of affordable housing across the Commonwealth,” Beshear said.
On Tuesday, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg announced a plan to spend $20 million for affordable housing in the city’s equivalent trust fund.
After the announcement, Republican House Speaker David Osborne said Beshear did not consult leaders of the GOP-led legislature about the plan.
“These are things that are priority items for us. So why not engage us?” Osborne said. “He didn't bother to talk to a single person that was going to be necessary to actually pass those policies.”
Republicans hold about 75% of seats in the legislature, and since it’s very easy to override a governor’s veto in Kentucky, GOP lawmakers will have final say in what ends up in the next two-year budget.
Beshear said when he announced the proposal he was confident the legislature would adopt his ideas because of successes in the previous budget cycle.
“We got the vast majority of what we were looking for in that last budget,” Beshear said. “They changed around some of the programs, but they were all workable.”