Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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June 20, 2014

McConnell, Grimes talk bridge challenges

FRANKFORT — Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes actually talked about an issue important to Kentucky other than coal on Friday — or least it’s importance in northern Kentucky.

McConnell, the incumbent five-term Republican trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Grimes, went to northern Kentucky where he unveiled a plan to help pay for a new Brent Spence Bridge which connects Kentucky and Cincinnati across the Ohio River.

The aging bridge needs replacing, but federal and state officials haven’t been able to agree on how to pay for it. Ohio wants to pay for it by charging tolls, a plan supported by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, but which is unpopular among those who live in northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati and use the bridge the most.

McConnell suggested using another favorite Republican idea — repealing the federal prevailing wage requirement which he said would provide savings of about $13 million over 10 years. The savings could be reinvested to repair or replace the country’s aging bridges and infrastructure based on a project-by-project evaluation according to need, according to McConnell.

McConnell said if Republicans gain control of the Senate in this fall’s elections and he becomes Majority Leader the prospects for repealing the prevailing wage law increase. But a Democratic president is certain to veto such a bill and without a veto-proof majority of 60 votes in the Senate, Republicans couldn’t muster an override.

Grimes’ campaign called McConnell’s proposal “a political ploy that will go nowhere, do nothing and ultimately sink like a stone.”

Grimes proposes closing some federal tax loopholes for large corporations, including those which allow them to deduct costs of relocating employees and equipment; ending deductions for corporations compensating executives with stock options; repatriating foreign profits; and ending deductions for corporate jet planes.

She says those moves will provide money for bridges like Brent Spence without the need for tools. But those measures are just as unlikely to pass with Republicans in control of the House as McConnell’s proposal is to pass and survive a veto.

McConnell aides said Grimes is “floating a tax increase” to pay for the bridge.

Kentucky and Indiana are presently constructing two major bridges which connect Louisville and southern Indiana and which will be financed by bonds to be paid off by tolls. Beshear has proposed a similar plan for the Brent Spence Bridge.

But Covington Democratic Rep. Arnold Simpson succeeded in attaching an amendment prohibiting tolls for Brent Spence to another bill. Beshear vetoed the bill because of the amendment.

The nation’s rapidly aging transportation infrastructure isn’t a problem unique to Kentucky. The federal Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by federal gasoline and diesel taxes which haven’t been increased since 1993, is expected to run out of money sometime in August.

Two U.S. Senators — Chris Murphy, D-Calif., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn. — are proposing a 12-cent increase in the federal tax over two years, generating an additional $164 billion over 10 years. But anti-tax groups don’t like it and its prospects aren’t good in an election year. The conservative Club for Growth called it “a tax increase, plain and simple.”

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

 

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