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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Senate Panel Votes To Restore Road Projects In David Williams' District Vetoed By Steve Beshear, Full Senate To Follow Suit; What Will The House And Steve Beshear Do Next?

Senate panel puts Williams' vetoed projects into transportation budget
By Beth Musgrave

FRANKFORT — The Senate budget committee added about $50 million in road projects to the Transportation Cabinet's operating budget Thursday for Senate President David Williams' Southern Kentucky district.

If the changes become law, which seems unlikely, they would reverse Gov. Steve Beshear's decision Wednesday to veto the road projects from a different bill that contains the state's two-year road plan.

The committee approved House Bill 2, the Transportation Cabinet's operating budget, but added Williams' road projects as an amendment to the bill. The bill will be voted on Friday by the full Senate.

Sen. Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, said the measure was an amendment and could be defeated in the full Senate without killing the bill. The House also could choose not to accept the amendment. Or, if the House approves the changes, Beshear could again veto the projects.

Leeper, who sponsored the amendment, said that an article in Thursday's Lexington Herald-Leader showed that Democratic House leaders' districts received more money per capita in the road plan than Williams' district did.

Before Beshear vetoed the projects, a Herald-Leader analysis showed that Williams' six-county district would have gotten $1,017 per person in road spending, compared to $2,411 per person in House Speaker Greg Stumbo's district and $5,259 per person in House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins' district. After the vetoes, Williams' district will get roughly $700 per person, Williams said Wednesday night.

Adding the vetoed road projects into the transportation budget seemed fair, Leeper said. He said Williams did not urge him to sponsor the amendment.

The transportation operating budget, HB 2, was one of two pieces of legislation that the General Assembly is considering during the special legislative session, which began Monday at a cost of $60,000 a day to taxpayers.

Beshear called the special session after the Republican Senate refused to pass the transportation operating budget on April 12, the last day of the regular 60-day law-making session. Williams wanted Beshear to sign the two-year road plan before the Senate voted on the operating budget. Beshear refused to sign the two-year road plan on the 12th, saying he needed more time to analyze the 400-page document.

Beshear signed the road plan Wednesday, but not before line-item vetoing several projects in or near Williams' district.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said after Thursday's vote that the legislature appeared to be heading in the wrong direction as an institution.

"I can't say this is our finest hour," Neal said. "I am hopeful that we don't extend this any more than it's already been extended."

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