by Jacqueline Pitts
Kentucky has been struggling with Road Fund revenues for many years. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray told legislators Wednesday in order for the state to make necessary improvements to safety and make new investments, we must think about what we want the future to look like and make the appropriate investments.
Motor fuel tax revenues have been flat since around 2015 when the price of gas dropped by almost $2 a gallon and revenues fell by $150 million that year alone. In the years since, Gray said, Kentucky has seen an annual decline in Road Fund revenues of $150-$180 million meaning since 2014, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has lost more than $1 billion because of this rapid decline.
These declines come as highway construction costs have gone up by more than 30 percent in just the last seven years, according to Gray.
For these reasons, Gray said Kentucky will have a very difficult time making improvements to any areas of transportation from roads and bridges to safety without additional investment.
With the funding remaining flat and the state struggles with revenue, he noted Kentucky also lost an additional $60 million because of the pandemic.
The top concern of cabinet, the secretary said, is most of our neighboring states including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, and Tennessee have raised their motor fuels tax in recent years to prioritize transportation and for some states, gas tax revenue is not the only means of funding transportation as Tennessee also uses part of their state sales tax to fund. Kentucky is being left behind and puts the state at a competitive disadvantage.
Wrapping up his comments, Gray said without road improvements we have made in areas like Bowling Green and with the Mountain Parkway, Kentucky simply wouldn’t have been able to stimulate the kind of investments the state has seen and emphasized the Commonwealth must make changes to be able to improve economic development and safety for the future.
“We always say we will always do the best we can with what we have and we will always work to live up to that mission. But please remember, as we said when we started out, thinking ahead what are the next five, 10, 15, 20, or 30 years going to be like if we continue to be in a situation where our revenues are flat and costs are increasing?” Gray asked.