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Kentucky Faces Potential Loss of Fed. Road Funds

The state is signaling what could potentially be a nationwide problem.

Thu January 02, 2014 - Midwest Edition

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) Kentucky could lose nearly $650 million in federal funding in 2015 for building and maintaining roads unless Congress shifts additional money into the Highway Trust Fund, a state official said.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock told the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee that all 50 states would experience the same financial wallop if the Highway Trust Fund isn’t replenished.

“We have to let you know that this is a very real possibility if Congress fails to act,’’ Hancock said. “This has wide-ranging implications for all states.’’

Nationwide, states could lose some $40 billion that they plan to spend on highway improvements if the issue were to end up in the kind of congressional gridlock that has become commonplace. California alone is poised to lose some $3.5 billion in 2015. Texas could lose $3 billion.

The Highway Trust Fund, which receives federal gas tax revenue and redistributes it to states for road construction and maintenance, is expected to be almost entirely depleted in 2015.

“My hope is that Congress will figure out a way to fix this, and at the state level we won’t know that there’s really been much of a blip in terms of our project implementation,’’ Hancock said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged to “continue to advocate for Kentucky’s transportation needs as the Senate addresses the next highway bill.’’

Congress has used general government money to replenish the Highway Trust Fund in the past, and Hancock said he’s hopeful that’ll happen again.

State Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, said the political stalemate in Washington makes him less than confident the problem will be resolved.

“That’s really scary to count on Congress to help us,’’ Keene said. “I fear that if we hang our hopes on what they’re going to do, we’re going to be sadly disappointed.’’

Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration has begun work on the state’s next two-year budget. Hancock said he’s operating under the assumption that the shortfall “will be fixed in one way or another’’ and that “the money is going to materialize.’’

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