Session Ends Without Requested Rupp Money
Proponents of Lexington's Rupp Arena project will likely be looking for new sources of funding to re-work the downtown complex. Kentucky lawmakers left Frankfort just after midnight Wednesday without backing a plan to borrow 80 million dollars toward the capital construction effort. Lexington Senator Reggie Thomas called it disappointing that legislators didn't come up with support for a project which could create five thousand jobs.
"This really wasn't about basketball, even though I'm a basketball fan. This bill was about jobs and about economic opportunity for my city and my region," said Thomas.
Several avenues for state support were under consideration during the session. The latest proposal called for borrowing state money and dropping plans for a Lexington hotel/motel tax increase. Lexington Senator Alice Kerr says the project just didn't rank high enough on some lawmakers' lists.
"In this time, this economic time of turmoil, people just really wanted to see money going for education and for the concerns of mainly education," said Kerr.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and representatives from the University of Kentucky met with Senators on Monday. Kerr acknowledges there were three proponents involved in the discussion.
"It was the governor's proposal and his original bill. It was the mayor's proposal and with UK in that equation somewhere," added Kerr.
Early Tuesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo expressed doubts that the arena project would warrant a special session of the legislature. Both Governor Steve Beshear and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray expressed disappointment about lawmakers' refusal to fund the project. But, both also said efforts to move the 310 million dollar project ahead will continue.