ATLANTA -- Kentucky's governor-elect, Brereton Jones, plans to push for legislative approval of a $300 million turnpike bond issue, but a key state legislator warns of an uphill fight when lawmakers gather for the 1992 session in January.
The obstacles are the state's strained finances and its recent surge in borrowing, said Rep. Joe Clarke, chairman of the powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
"The 1992 session will really be a tough one for any kind of new spending, and I don't see a strong chance of approval for this appropriation," the Danville Democrat said Tuesday.
"Also, I've been concerned about the level of indebtedness for some time," he continued. "Our economic difficulties only heighten that concern."
The road bonds would be the second installment in $600 million of turnpike bonds approved in principle during the 1990 legislative session.
However, in calling for the $600 million of new road debt, the lawmakers only appropriated debt service for a $300 million issue. That offering was sold by the Kentucky Turnpike Authority in October 1990.
Rep. Clarke's remarks come a month after incumbent Gov. Wallace Wilkinson announced a $155 million revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 1992.
Gov. Wilkinson has moved to close that gap through a combination of reductions and deferrals of spending.
Mr. Clarke said there is a "strong chance" of more revenue shortfalls and spending cuts in the upcoming fiscal year.
Speaking of the state's growing debt, Rep. Clarke pointed out that the $8.8 billion budget passed for the fiscal biennium beginning July 1, 1990, funded a record $1 billion of lease bonds.
That budget was largely financed by a 1-cent increase that brought the state's sales tax to 6 cents on the dollar.
Bill Griffin, Mr. Jone's spokesman, said Tuesday that the Democratic governor-elect holds to his campaign promise of support for the $300 million of turnpike bonds.
Mr. Griffin added, however, that Mr. Jones would not support any tax increase for debt service on the bonds.
In addition to the $300 million of turnpike bonds, the 1992 legislative session will face state agency requests for $2.3 billion of bonds not associated with road projects.
In its first report on capital needs in Kentucky, a recently created panel of state officials last month presented a four-year, $3.6 billion wish list of projects requiring $2.3 billion of bonds.
But Kentucky's Capital Planning Advisory Board, which was established by the state legislature in 1990, withheld judgment on which bonds should be funded.
The report does not include anticipated road projects, because the legislature recently established a task force with responsibility for determining highway needs.
Kentucky's $70.7 million of general obligation debt is rated Aa by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard and Poor's Corp.