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Kentucky senators split votes on infrastructure measure

August 11, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Republican senators split their votes Tuesday on a Senate-approved $1 trillion infrastructure plan, with Mitch McConnell supporting the measure and Rand Paul opposing it.

McConnell, the top-ranking Senate Republican, said the measure shows “both sides of the political aisle can still come together around commonsense solutions.” It would deliver at least $5.1 billion over several years for work on Kentucky roads and bridges, he said.

“This is an important achievement for Kentucky and the American people,” McConnell said. “Communities all across the commonwealth will benefit from this bill. ... Through today’s actions, we will be more competitive on the global stage and primed for broad-based economic growth.”

The 69-30 Senate vote sends the measure, backed by President Joe Biden, to the House.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear praised the Senate action and said the measure, if it becomes law, could become a key funding driver for a mega-bridge project connecting Kentucky and Ohio.

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Meanwhile, Paul agreed the state has “real infrastructure needs,” but said the measure “is not just about roads and bridges and clean water, it’s step one of the `Green New Deal.’”

“The plan also adds at least $250 billion in new debt,” Paul said in a statement. “Instead of bringing down soaring gas prices, it will push them even higher along with the price of food and other necessities soaring from inflation. This is not the plan Kentucky families need.”

McConnell said the measure would deliver “critical federal resources” to help update highways, bridges and airports, extend broadband and provide clean drinking water to more Kentuckians.

Kentucky also could compete for grant money to help finance major bridge and roads projects.

That could give Kentucky another funding option in long-discussed efforts to build a new bridge across the Ohio River between northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. The outdated, heavily traveled Brent Spence Bridge at that crossing has long been a national symbol for advocates pushing for a massive infusion of new federal spending on infrastructure.

Beshear said Tuesday he thinks that project would “absolutely qualify” for the competitive funding.

“And provided that is the case, we can pay for our portion of it in cash,” the governor said at a news conference. “No tolls. We can make it happen for a community that has been waiting for so long.”

Also by doing so, more funding would be freed up for crucial transportation projects in western and eastern Kentucky, the governor said.

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Associated Press Writer Piper Hudspeth Blackburn contributed to this report.