FRANKFORT — Senate and House leaders are at a standoff about how to finalize a multi-billion road plan and some of the money to pay for it.
Senate President David Williams wants Gov. Steve Beshear to sign the massive state road construction plan before the Senate votes on the bill that would fund a chunk of it by not letting the gasoline drop by 4 cents on April 1.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it would be more “logical” for the chambers to send the entire package –the construction plan and the funding mechanism — to the governor today and allow legislators to consider any of his possible vetoes when lawmakers return later this month for a veto session.
“I don’t know that we can get the House members to vote on a road plan without knowing if the Senate’s going to pass those pennies,” Stumbo told several reporters after he and Williams held their regular Friday joint press conference.
UPDATED AT 2:30 P.M. Beshear told reporters that he had no preference when the legislature sends him the road plan bill with its funding.
But he said even if the Senate approved the funding plan today he could not assure Williams that he would not veto any parts of the road plan.
“I can’t make that decision today because we haven’t even received the bill yet,” Beshear said.
The Senate on Thursday presented to the House its version of a $3.7 billion road plan but its budget committee has not yet taken up a companion bill to freeze the current gas tax rate at 21.1 cents a gallon.
The rate is scheduled to go down by 4 cents on April 1 due to the decline of the wholesale price in recent months.
Williams insisted that the votes are there in the Senate to freeze the 4 cents.
He said his preference for the Senate to wait until the governor signed the road plan into law would give the governor the opportunity to line-item veto any projects and then the legislature could return in 10 days to consider any vetoes.
“We’re trying to clarify what the process is and this is the first step in that clarification,” Williams said, “(which) is to make sure we give the governor the opportunity to veto that road plan and then we’ll come back and have the opportunity to decide, if he vetoes the entire road plan, whether we’ll freeze the four pennies or not.”
Williams stressed that the Senate did not take out any of the road projects the House had included in its version of House Bill 330.
Williams said the Senate isn’t looking for any kind of promise not to veto from Beshear.
“I don’t need a commitment from anybody to reach a consensus — we’re going to try to reach a consensus,” he said.
Stumbo said he has no problems with some changes the Senate made in the House version of the road plan.
“No harm has been done to it,” he said.
Asked if he were concerned that the Senate designated much of the federal stimulus dollars in the road plan to rural areas which benefited some leaders, Stumbo said, “We did the same thing.”
– Jack Brammer and Ryan Alessi