As Congress returns to Washington this week, state lawmakers heard from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray in Frankfort on the potential impact of the federal investment and employment law in infrastructure (IIJA), which could be passed by the US House of Representatives as early as next week.
Speaking on the IIJA before the Interim Joint Transport Committee on Monday, Gray made it clear to lawmakers that the numbers discussed from the IIJA package are still speculative and, if the package passes to the federal level, the additional funding will not provide. not a cure for the infrastructure needs of the state.
Gray said Kentucky could receive around $ 700 million for general highway and bridge projects over the next five years under current IIJA language being considered in Congress.
“This increase, which would equate to an average of about $ 130 million per year in new funds, is not without consequence, but it is not a panacea either,” Gray said. “It’s not such a huge amount that it would cover all of the pent-up transportation and infrastructure needs across the state.”
Gray said Kentucky would need to provide its fair share of funding in order to withdraw federal funding. The Transportation Secretary also spoke of several other sources of funding available through grant programs that Kentucky could compete for to address megaprojects such as a Brent Spence companion bridge in northern Kentucky and the I-69 bridge near Henderson.
“We predicted that we will still need 20 percent of state-level matching funds to receive the additional money for the road projects,” Gray said. “We are seeing grant proposals from some of our competitive states that have increased their commitment to 30 and 40 percent, making it much harder to compete for us. It is caution. Personally, I am worried about how much we can actually contribute against other states that have higher incomes on their side. “
Gray reiterated that the new federal funding would not be a silver bullet to the state’s transportation needs, speaking specifically about the need to replace lost funding with the state’s fuel tax.
“We have only grown nominally in 2021, from around $ 741 million in 2020 to around $ 748 million year-to-date,” Gray said. “We are still not moving forward; other states are overtaking us because they have adapted their fuel tax collection models.
Asked about a fuel tax hike program proposed at the 2021 regular session and the impact of any new money on local governments, Gray said just under half of any new money collected would go directly to cities and counties to make improvements.
“It would have a substantial increase, which is why I think so many city and county officials have supported an adjustment to our income, because they are the ones who will have the discretion over these funds,” Gray said. “This comes back to a real positive for our cities and counties.”