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McCoy: Legislators vote to invest $1.36 billion on infrastructure, other needs

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State Representative

Friday, April 2, 2021 — After an extremely busy and productive 30-day legislative session, the 2021 Regular Session adjourned “sine die” at just a few minutes shy of midnight on Tuesday, March 30th.

REP. CHAD MCCOY

ELECTION MACHINES. During the final two days, we considered the Governor’s veto messages and heard from stakeholders. One veto we chose not to override is SB 63, which requires that no voting system have the ability to be connected to a network, and requires all votes to be cast on paper ballots and marked with a pen. While we agree this bill is a step towards increased confidence in the integrity of Kentucky elections, after hearing input from county clerks and other stake holders, we found some unintended consequences – there are no machines that exist without a data port. Luckily, we don’t have an election this year, so this is a measure we can revisit next session just in time for the next election cycle.

ELECTION CHANGES. With respect to elections, we passed HB 574 which retains some of the emergency procedures used during the 2020 general election cycle and builds on safeguards to maintain election integrity. This includes early in-person voting, which was widely popular during the general election. This provision is a great way to maintain flexibility for people who work on Election Day, but still value voting in-person. For those that prefer voting by absentee, this bill makes the process safer by mandating the use of monitored drop boxes. HB 574 also provides safeguards to ensure election integrity. For example, it prohibits ballot harvesting by barring people from collecting mail-in absentee ballots. It also requires the state Board of Elections to remove a voter from the voter registration records once the board is notified from a local or state jurisdiction that the voter is registered in another state.

Because of the infusion of federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March, this session presented the legislature with a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity to invest $2.6 billion into our state. Of that amount, $2.4 billion is to be dedicated to infrastructure projects, direct aid and other limited uses. The remaining $185 million must be spent on capital projects “directly enabling work, education and health monitoring” in response to the pandemic.

In addition to holding sole authority for making laws, the legislature also holds the sole responsibility for raising revenue and spending state dollars. Ultimately, this means that allocating ARPA funds falls under our authority. We are committed to crafting good, long-term public policy. The investments we made this session with American Rescue Plan Act funds reflect this philosophy and future allocations will as well. This session we allocated $1.36 billion in federal money to invest in the long-term sustainability of our unemployment insurance program, expanding broadband, and upgrading decaying or inadequate infrastructure.

After a great deal of consideration and discussion, the legislature allocated approximately $1.36 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during the 2021 Regular Session.

  • We were able to use $575 million of ARPA funds to cover our debt and future costs on the federal unemployment insurance trust fund. (HB 382)
  • $250 million to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA) to replace aging water infrastructure.
  • $250 million directed to the Broadband Deployment Fund to reach unserved and underserved areas. (HB 320)
  • $50 million for the deployment of broadband for economic development purposes. (HB 382)
  • $127 million for replacing and renovating aging public school facilities. (HB 556)
  • $12 million for county jails to help mitigate spread of COVID-19 (HB 556)
  • $37 million to help with prison population. (HB 556)
  • $53 million for interior renovations of Capitol. (HB 556)
  • $5 million for exterior maintenance and renovations of Capitol Annex. (HB 556)

In addition to the ARPA funds, the House and Senate made strategic investments in other areas of our state with general fund dollars, including:

  • $140 million in additional funding for kindergarten, freeing districts up to invest in remedial programs, as well as focus on improving reading and math comprehension.
  • $10 million for a new Tax Incremental Financing district for West Louisville.
  • $20 million for rural hospitals through a revolving loan program.
  • $75 million towards the construction of vocational education facilities.

There are no frills in how we spent money this session. Frankly, there should not be as every dollar we spend – both federal and state money – comes out of the pockets of taxpayers. I expect us to continue to be intentional and strategic and seek input as we consider the next step. We know that there will be a rush to appropriate the remaining money but we have the opportunity and obligation to contemplate policies that will benefit Kentuckians for generations.

As always, I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions or issues. I can be reached here at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Please feel free to email me at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ky.gov.

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