The Governor’s Race: Beshear and Cameron on infrastructure
Published 4:20 pm Friday, September 15, 2023
In 2019, Kentucky earned a C- grade in infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The only sectors earning above a C were Kentucky’s energy and solid waste, while its drinking water, dams, bridges, roads and wastewater scored poorly.
During his administration, Gov. Andy Beshear has overseen historic investments in many of these troubled areas of aging infrastructure.
He has talked at length about the three major infrastructure projects happening simultaneously in the state – the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project, the Mountain Parkway expansion and the 1-69 Ohio River Crossing.
Now, as a reelection candidate, he is touting Kentucky’s advancements as part of his campaign.
Beshear’s Better Kentucky Plan
One of the Beshear administration’s top priorities has been its Better Kentucky Plan, which aims to boost the state’s economy through infrastructure investments.
The plan has several parts, including the following:
Since 2021, $500 million has been appropriated for water and wastewater grants for local governments across Kentucky.
Funds, which were approved through a pair of 2021 and 2022 bills, are partially based on county population, with an additional focus on rural areas and areas under federal consent decrees to address stormwater and sanitary sewer system concerns.
The bipartisan bills used money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to fund the grants.
High-speed internet is another part of the Better Kentucky Plan.
In 2020, the General Assembly created a Broadband Deployment Fund, which was funded with $300 million in subsequent legislative sessions.
Beshear just announced the fund’s second round of grant recipients, which totals a $386 million investment when matching funds are added to bring broadband to over 42,000 homes and businesses.
Kentucky also has its own Office of Broadband Development now to handle state and federal dollars.
Roads and bridges are core infrastructure needs.
Beshear’s 2022-28 Kentucky Highway Plan includes an anticipated $8.5 billion in state and federal revenues to repair and preserve pavement and bridges.
The state revenues will position Kentucky to compete for federal infrastructure funding by providing some of the needed matching funds for costly projects, the Beshear administration says.
EV Charging Program
Beshear often says that Kentucky is positioned to be the electric vehicle battery capitol of the nation.
His Better Kentucky plan includes an Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan to expand charging infrastructure on highways to support long-distance EV travel.
The legislature approved $17.5 million in General Funds to match $70 million in federal grant money for deployment.
The Better Kentucky plan will use $6.5 billion of the federal bipartisan infrastructure law funding to “build stronger communities.”
This money, administered by the Energy and Environment Cabinet, may go toward improvements in energy efficiency, forestry, renewable energy, waste management and water.
What does Cameron have to say about infrastructure?
In short, not much. Infrastructure is not a key aspect of Cameron’s campaign, which is more focused on social issues and education.
He has touched on Kentucky’s energy infrastructure, primarily to defend coal and fossil fuels.
In his current office, Cameron has joined other Republican attorneys general to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over policies that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
He also led the charge to sue the Biden Administration over its plan to aggressively phase out gas-powered vehicles in favor of electric vehicles over the next decade.
Cameron said that while Beshear “might equivocate on this particular issue,” he would defend coal and natural gas as part of Kentucky’s long-term energy strategy.
“I’m gonna stand up for our coal and natural gas industry because, again, to the extent we have a competitive advantage with our surrounding states, it’s because we can offer low cost and reliable energy, and we’re going to maintain that when I’m governor here in Kentucky,” he said.
Cameron has also criticized Beshear for taking credit for infrastructure wins that he says belong to the Republican state legislature.
At the annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast in August, he added Sen. Mitch McConnell to the list of politicians who deserve props more than Beshear.
As minority leader, McConnell said he was a key player in the Senate compromises that led to passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Kentucky will receive over $6 billion through BIL in the next five years for infrastructure including roads, bridges, railroads, river ports, airports and broadband.
“I’m grateful for what Senator McConnell had in his infrastructure package,” Cameron said.
“I’m grateful for the bipartisan support and all that. It’s helping fund projects. I know Andy Beshear tries to take credit for those things, but that was because of the work of Senator McConnell and others in the United States Senate that that package got passed and we’re seeing some of the benefits of that.”