They Hear it All!

Most of you know I travel around the state quite a bit speaking to different groups about transportation. From local Chambers of Commerce to civic groups, I speak with people who all have a different opinion on transportation - and how we pay for it.

But this morning, as you read this, I'm speaking to a group that gets it. The Kentucky County Judge Executive's Association is hosting their Winter Meeting in Lexington and I'm honored to be here. I'm honored - not only because they are great people who do lots of hard work to keep Kentucky's local communities going - but because they are on the front lines when it comes to transportation issues.

I've often said that the first call elected officials will receive when they get elected will be about transportation and it turns out that is true (although I hear that animal calls are pretty close). But when you're a County Judge Executive or a Magistrate the transportation calls never stop. They get calls about trains, airports and airport noise, transit services, and roads that need to be paved, roads that need to be salted, roads that need to be widened, roads that need safety improvements, signals that need to be added - and anything else you can think of when it comes to transportation.

They hear it all.

And - they try to fix it all. But over the past couple of years, fixing all their problems has gotten harder and harder because their road funding has decreased due to the decrease in the motor fuels tax rate.

Nearly half the funds that are collected through the motor fuels tax are revenue shared with the counties and cities. These funds are used to run the county road programs and to resurface, maintain, and construct the county and city roads.

In some cases, these are the only revenues our local communities have to use on their local roads. These are the local roads so many Kentuckians depend on every day. Whether it is putting their kids on a school bus or driving to work - without these safe local streets and roads many people in our rural communities would have limited or no access.

And when these local streets and roads fall into a state of disrepair, these County Judge Executives are the first to get the call. And, in many cases, our local elected officials will be the first person to explain to their constituents that the local roads can't be patched, paved, or resurfaced because there just isn't enough money.

That's hard to do.

What I hope, is that our local elected officials won't have to take those types of calls. I hope that our local communities have the revenue to complete all the maintenance needed and that they have the revenue to improve and build what needs to be built for all modes of transportation.

I hope the calls they take will be from people thanking them for the good jobs that their good transportation network brought to their community. Or that their constituents call and thank them for the educational opportunities their children were able to access because they had a safe route to school. Or that people call their local elected officials and thank them for the transit system that always provided them a way to work.

What I hope is that all our local communities need enough revenue to build, maintain, and improve our entire transportation infrastructure so all of our children have safe routes to school, our citizens have safe, maintained routes to work, and our freight has a reliable, dependable transportation network to reach the greater marketplace - no matter where you are in the state.

I appreciate all of the hard work of our local elected officials- especially when it comes to our transportation infrastructure.

What I hope, is that next year, we'll have solved our funding challenges and I can attend the Kentucky County Judge Executives Winter Conference - rather than continue to talk about the challenges we face.