FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — State lawmakers are off to a “good start” in using a massive infusion of federal pandemic aid to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday.
The Republican-led legislature closed out its 30-day session on Tuesday by allocating more than $1 billion in federal money on several big-ticket items. Those items include school construction, water and sewer projects and broadband expansion.
The Democratic governor, who feuded with GOP lawmakers over efforts to rein in some of his executive authority, praised the legislature for its decisions on how to use the federal aid. He predicted the investments will create thousands of jobs in Kentucky.
“At a time when we want to make sure we sprint out of this pandemic, we get out of this recession, we want to use these dollars to create jobs and economic activity," he said. "And I think there was a lot of good work that came together to get a good start on that.”
The spending decisions reflected shared priorities between Beshear and Republican lawmakers. State government in Kentucky is expected to eventually receive about $2.4 billion from the pandemic aid package championed by President Joe Biden. That package was passed by congressional Democrats, including the state’s lone Democratic congressman, John Yarmuth.
Beshear said it was “too early to know” whether he would need to convene a special legislative session later this year to appropriate the remainder of the state's portion of federal aid, or whether it could be dealt with in the regular 2022 session.
But the work between his office and lawmakers to agree on the spending decisions made in recent days was “a real positive sign — one of the first times we've been able to work together that closely," the governor said at a news conference. "And I think it's going to be good for everybody.”
Lawmakers agreed to use $300 million of federal money to extend broadband service and $575 million of the federal aid to repay a federal loan that kept the state’s unemployment insurance program afloat. Both decisions reflected some of the governor's priorities.
Legislators also allocated $250 million in federal aid for water and wastewater projects across Kentucky. Beshear called that decision “transformational in providing clean drinking water to everybody.”
“This is a chance to modernize that infrastructure, to run water and sewer lines to industrial parks and other commercial activities, to homes where it's not there,” he said.
Beshear also praised the legislature for allotting about $200 million for new construction and renovations of schools and vocational schools.
As for the remainder of the federal assistance, the governor said he would still like to see a “relief portion” that would assist small businesses, pandemic-battered industries and individuals.
State officials are still awaiting federal guidance on how the aid can be used, which could open up other spending opportunities, he said.
Lawmakers on Tuesday also directed $140 million in state funds to support full-day kindergarten on the final day of their session.