Ernie Harris

Kentucky LRC

The chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee is still confident that something will be done to adjust Kentucky’s gas tax before the legislative session ends.

But the committee chair, Sen. Ernie Harris, said it’s still unclear what a final bill would look like or where it would come from.

“We’ve been talking about it in leadership and in our caucus. We don’t have a resolution yet, we’re not sure the exact direction that we’re going, but I’m confident that we will address it at some time,” said Harris, a Prospect Republican.

Senate Republicans are discussing not allowing the fuel tax to swing by 5 or 10 percent over the course of a year, Harris said. Currently, the gas tax is based on the average wholesale price of gasoline.

The state’s road fund, which funds maintenance and construction on state highway and bridge projects, has been dwindling because low gas prices have led to fewer tax receipts.

Harris had written a bill that would have set a “floor” to the gas tax—meaning the tax rate would stop adjusting once gas prices fell below a certain amount. That legislation was once a likely contender, but Harris said the legislature will not take it up. He said a final bill will depend on leadership of both chambers working together to decide what bill to advance.

Lawmakers have until 11:59 Wednesday evening to pass bills before the governor’s week-and-a-half long veto session—currently there is no fuel tax bill that has passed both the House and Senate. Lawmakers also have an optional two days to pass bills after the veto session.

If nothing is done to adjust the gas tax, local governments stand to lose up to 40 percent of revenue for routine maintenance of roads, Harris said.

“And that’s not just new asphalt—that is potholes, and after the snows that we’ve had you see the potholes cropping up on fairly new-laid asphalt,” Harris said.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says he will override a legislative committee’s decision to reject new science standards for public school students. 

The Kentucky Board of Education already approved the Next Generation Science Standards this year, but they were subject to legislative review. The regulation review committee shot down the new standards 5-1 Wednesday, following public criticism that they included teachings on evolution and climate change.

Committee co-chair Senator Ernie Harris rejected the standards, calling them  inferior to Kentucky’s current standards.

“I probably got 100 comments from people around the state to find these regs deficient, and I think I got may three or four in support of the regs," Sen. Harris said.

By law, the governor can override these types of legislative decisions. Beshear says he’s disappointed in the committee’s decision and will move forward with implementation anyway.