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Northern Kentucky lawmaker hopes gas tax could fund state infrastructure projects

‘You have to pay for what you get’
Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 2:57 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Northern Kentucky lawmaker is once again pushing a possible state gas tax increase to help pay for much-needed upgrades and infrastructure repairs.

“Our transportation department is $500 million underfunded presently,” Boone County Representative Sal Santoro said.

Santoro is behind a bill that would raise Kentucky’s gas tax, he says, by no more than ten cents a gallon.

“That is something that the average American person could live with,” Santoro said.

But not everyone can live with the idea. A gas tax bill is something the Republican has been working on for years with little support. Opponents argue the state is not spending the money they already have wisely.

They also contend the Kentucky General Assembly can increase investment in infrastructure this session even without a gas tax hike due to federal dollars from the CARES Act.

The state budget director has reported higher revenue estimates along with CARES Act dollars resulted in $78.9 million in more road fund resources available in 2021 and $38 million more in 2022.

Though lawmakers spurned recent proposals to raise the commonwealth’s stagnant gasoline tax, the Republican legislator continues to push the idea, hoping he can persuade colleagues that significant new money is needed to attack a multi-billion dollar backlog of road and bridge work.

“It really does frustrate me. Because we have such a need,” Santoro said. He adds that the recent high-profile shutdown of the Brent Spence Bridge is fresh on voters’ minds, “I believe now that we have their ear, that they are starting to listen, they know that you have to be bold, sometimes you have to go out there and do what’s right.”

Santoro does have support in the Northern Kentucky business community.

“Our region continues to expand, and we need more development,” Vice President of Public Affairs for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Kristen Baldwin said.

The Northern Kentucky Chamber is one of 14 state and local chambers along with 110 cities to support an increase in the gas tax.

“There’s less and less money to go around in recent years, which is why we’re asking to invest in infrastructure and increase the amount of money that’s going into the road fund,” Baldwin added.

The chamber points out three percent of the nation’s gross national product travels across the Brent Spence Bridge each year, but there is a long list of other projects impacting Northern Kentucky.

“While it seems like a no-brainer at this point to invest in infrastructure,” Baldwin said. “We don’t have the full support of our Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus.”

The Kentucky General Assembly has yet to file the gas tax bill proposed by Santoro. The Northern Kentucky Chamber is asking voters to make their voices heard before the end of the legislative session.

“We need our citizens to reach out to their local legislators to ask them to support this measure,” Baldwin said. “Representative Santoro has been championing this issue for four years now. We are no closer to the passage of this bill four years later than we were four years ago.”

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