Monday, March 10, 2014

Last Call For Whom The Bridge Tolls

The Brent Spence Bridge connecting northern Kentucky with Cincinnati is reaching the end of its structural lifespan.  It's one of the busiest bridges in the country, carrying twice its intended traffic daily, and replacing it isn't going to happen anytime soon, or at all, it looks like.

The Kentucky legislative session is more than halfway over, and Northern Kentucky state lawmakers show no signs of embracing tolls — despite support for them from the Ohio and Kentucky governors, business leaders and lawmakers elsewhere, who think tolls are the only way to finance the $2.6 billion project.

Kentucky owns the bridge, and the Northern Kentucky delegation holds almost all the power on whether the project gets done. But no one has come up with another money source besides tolls to pay for the bridge replacement and highway corridor overhaul.

“I don’t think it’s ever gonna be dead until it’s addressed, but it’s probably not going to move forward right now,” said Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “Over time, they’re going to have to replace that bridge.”

It's pretty simple:  if northern Kentucky lawmakers vote to stick voters like me with the bill through tolls, they'll be unemployed.  Everyone else in Kentucky and Ohio wants to do just that.  But Democrat or Republican, liberal blogger or Tea Party patriot, you will see any state lawmaker around here who votes to pay for the new Brent Spence through $2-$5 tolls each way get launched out of office at near relativistic speeds.  And they know it.

Ohio and Kentucky have spent or committed $104.9 million to the project since 2005. Top regional businesses, meanwhile, have invested more than $2 million since 2012 to advocate for a new bridge on Interstates 71 and 75 — fearing that nightmarish rush-hour congestion on the 50-year-old Brent Spence will eventually hinder the region’s ability to retain and add jobs.

Northern Kentucky lawmakers’ inability to move the project along could become a real problem for Ohio, which has no power to get the project done despite paying for almost half of it. Ohio is in the midst of a massive overhaul of I-75, a plan that calls for remaking several interchanges and adding a lane each direction along a 17-mile section.

The Brent Spence Bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2035. It is “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, lack of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on the lower deck. The bridge carries double its intended traffic each day, but is structurally sound and in no danger of falling, engineers say.

Everyone acknowledges we need a new bridge.  Nobody wants to pay for it, especially not through a regressive toll that would cost commuters a couple thousand a year.

GOP Still On Cruz Controlled

"If there's one things that unifies politicians of both parties, you know, their top priority is preserving their own hide," Cruz said on ABC's "This Week" when asked if the GOP could repeal the health care law while President Obama remains in office. "And if enough Congressional Democrats realize they either stand with ObamaCare and lose, or they listen to the American people and have a chance at staying in office, that's the one scenario we could do it in 2015. If not, we'll do it in 2017."

Cruz reiterated that he can repeal "every single word" of the law.

When host Jonathan Karl asked if Cruz was positive a repeal was possible with Obama in the White House, the senator indicated it wasn't a large factor.

"You know, what's funny, Jon, is the media treats that as a bizarre proposition," Cruz said.

"Well, it is," Karl responded. "It is a bizarre proposition."

Cruz then said that pushing for a full repeal was the best way for the GOP to win elections in 2014.

Here's your effect:  House Republicans are now holding the Medicare "doc fix" hostage over Obamacare.

House Republicans have a bold new strategy to attack Obamacare, which involves huge pay cuts for physicians unless Democrats agree to delay the law's individual mandate to buy insurance.

GOP leaders intend to vote on legislation this week, aides say, to delay the individual mandate in order to fund a "doc fix" that avoids a 24 percent pay cut to physicians under Medicare -- which will automatically take effect on April 1 unless Congress acts. Inaction would disrupt the health care system, in part by causing many doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients.

Break the system so it can't work, then blame Democrats for it not working.  The Ted Cruz Shutdown wing of the GOP still calls the shots...because every Republican is a member.

Repeat after me:  there are no moderate Republicans.

About That Rand Paul CPAC Straw Poll...

Rand Paul handily won the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, one gauge of the Republican base’s mood less than two years before the 2016 primary season kicks off.

The Kentucky senator received 31 percent, far ahead of second place Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who received 11 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished third with 9 percent, ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who received 8 percent.

The announcement came at the end of the group’s annual three-day confab. Organizers said that 2,459 attendees voted on computer kiosks.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum tied for fifth place, with 7 percent.

Certainly seems like there's an overwhelming favorite in the 2016 race for the GOP, right?

GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio, who has run the straw poll since 1986, said that nearly half of the straw poll voters were between the ages of 18 to 25.

“This is a sampling of people from all 50 states who are at the forefront of the conservative moment,” he said. “They’re the people who go knock on doors.”

Oh sure, that seems like a fully representative sample of the GOP and America as a whole.  So, if you think that the makeup of the GOP primaries and the 2016 general election will be 50% white dudebro frat boys who worship Bitcoin, hate the government, but are happy to live on their parents' health insurance because they're under 26, then sure, Rand Paul has a real chance to be your next President.

Of course the flip side of this is "these guys will definitely vote."  Will you?


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