Major Northern Kentucky projects in state’s budget include new medical examiner lab

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear released his next two-year budget executive proposal this week, and it features several major Northern Kentucky projects poised to get support.

“Northern Kentucky’s economy is thriving, it is booming, and what this budget tries to do is keep that momentum going,” the governor told WCPO 9 in a one-on-one interview Friday.

Among the projects Beshear is setting up is a new medical examiner lab in Northern Kentucky.

“Think about a crime lab and we’ve been attempting to do that for several years now,” the former state attorney general said. “There’s been challenges in the locations about where and so this will be a continued discussion with the legislature.”

Beshear said the plan is to build it at Northern Kentucky University. WCPO 9 learned Friday that the proposal would use the former Highland Heights city building on Harriet Avenue. NKU confirmed it now owns the building and would only be involved in renovations and leasing it for the lab development.

There has long been talk of another medical examiner’s lab for the state.

“It should help us with overall capacity statewide and in Northern Kentucky,” Beshear said.

Meanwhile, in Covington, work is already underway on areas surrounding the Brent Spence Bridge corridor projects. Beshear said residents will notice dirt moving in 2024. His budget proposal includes the promised funding for Kentucky’s portion of the project during the budget window. It also includes money for a new Fourth Street bridge between Covington and Newport, the design of which the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet just unveiled.

And the proposed support does not end there. Beshear said he wants the state to buy land on the former IRS site to expand the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. And his budget includes state support for parts of that major redevelopment project in Covington.

“So this administration believes in Northern Kentucky, in what’s going on and how exciting it is,” he said.

The governor’s plan also would increase per-pupil funding under the state’s main funding formula. It would fully fund teacher pensions and student transportation.

Another key Beshear proposal calls for spending about $141 million over two years for child care assistance, in part to help cushion child care programs from the loss of pandemic-era federal subsidies.

Meanwhile, his budget calls for a nearly 8% increase in the base budgets of public universities, which endured state budget cuts for several years.

For the state’s workforce, Beshear proposed awarding a 6% across-the-board pay raise effective next July 1, followed by a 4% raise the next year.

He proposed using $500 million in state funds for water and wastewater projects statewide and $300 million for major transportation projects — with an eye toward widening the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky and building an Ohio River bridge between western Kentucky and Indiana.

To build on the state’s record pace of economic development, the governor proposed allocating another $200 million to help land new employers. Half the amount would go to prepare mega-development projects and the rest would aid county and regional site development.

Beshear proposed building two female-only juvenile detention centers and to retrofit other detention centers.

As with any governor’s proposal, the legislature will have final say on the budget — the state’s main policy document. Republican House Speaker David Osborne told the Associated Press lawmakers have been preparing for the next budget since finishing their last one. Now they can delve into details of Beshear’s rendition.

“While we are not aware of any of the governor’s requests, we welcome his early submission and are hopeful that it includes information that we have asked for over the past several months,” Osborne said.

Gov. Beshear told WCPO 9 he had productive conversations across the aisle in the run up to his budget announcement and in the days after it, even though the budget does not plan on a reduction in state income tax since the General Assembly’s economic guideposts have not been met to drop it again to 3.5% in 2025.

“Obviously I can’t run for re-election and that tones down the temperature,” he said.

The General Assembly returns to Frankfort Jan. 2 and the legislative session is scheduled through April 15.

Bruce Schreiner of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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