FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The clock finally ran out on a proposal to insert state-supported bonding into the financing packaging to renovate Rupp Arena.
Kentucky lawmakers ended their 2014 regular session Tuesday night without voting on whether to authorize up to $80 million in state bonding to help update the home court of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team.
The project also includes building a new convention center in downtown Lexington.
The last-minute proposal had remained in limbo as supporters tried to win over reluctant Republican senators.
Gov. Steve Beshear, who led the push for the state-backed bonding, said he would continue to work toward making the project a reality.
“Delaying this project needlessly delays positive economic development for the central Kentucky region, but I am confident that we will forge a path forward,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land.
Republicans and Democrats clashed over the spending plan Monday, when leaders of both parties said it was unlikely they would reach a deal. That could have led Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to call the legislature back to Frankfort for a special session that would have cost taxpayers $60,000 per day.
But lawmakers emerged from hours of closed-door meetings Tuesday to say they had reached an agreement both bodies could pass.
In an election year when Republicans are trying to take control of the House, the road-funding plan ended up showcasing the political and philosophical differences between the two parties. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and House Democratic leaders wanted to restore the state gas tax to the level it had been in December 2013. That would have raised the tax 1.5 cents per gallon and generated $107 million over the next two years to pay for more projects.
But Senate Republicans attacked that proposal as a tax increase, setting up nearly three weeks of contentious negotiations that almost ended without an agreement. House Democrats agreed to give up the gas-tax increase and Senate Republicans agreed to add more projects to the plan.