ERLANGER, Ky. — Improving Kentucky's infrastructure could come at the price of a higher gas tax, Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday.
Speaking at a groundbreaking event for an extension of the Enzweiller Building Institute, Bevin — who hopes to keep his job by beating Democrat Andy Beshear in the Nov. 5 election — argued that developing his state's highways and bridges will be key to securing its future.
"The world is coming to Northern Kentucky. They really are," Bevin said. "The Brent Spence corridor we were talking about earlier? It's going to get straightened out. It has to. We can't keep kicking the can down the road."
He also proposed a highway bypass to help bring more companies and business opportunities to the area.
"What needs to go in next needs to transect 71 and 75," he said. "Not north of where they come together. It needs to intersect 71, 75 and the AA (highway), go all the way across the river."
Bevin's proposed projects would require funding of $10-12 billion and a dedicated revenue stream, which could potentially take the form of a significantly higher gas tax.
"A lot will have to come from it," Bevin said. "We're not going to get 2, 5, or 8 cents."
He added he knows raising taxes isn't a popular option — "The people who push back will push back," he told the audience — but the increase in taxes could pay dividends for all Kentuckians down the road.
"If we stand united for a single and simple vision, great things will happen in Kentucky," Bevin said.
Bevin's ballot-box battle with Beshear on Election Day will represent the culmination of a years-long rivalry between the governor and his attorney general, who come from opposing political parties and often stridently disagree in public. Beshear's father, Steve Beshear, governed Kentucky from 2007-2015, proving even a state with a majority-Republican congress could accept the right Democrat as its highest elected official.
And Bevin's position is vulnerable. He has publicly squabbled with teachers and teachers' unions, and Beshear has correspondingly attempted to appeal to them. He has occasionally topped lists of the least popular governors in the United States. (By Tuesday, he ranked No. 2 on Morning Consult's quarterly list, with 53% of surveyed Kentuckian expressing disapproval.) However, Bevin also has heavy-hitting support from other Republicans. President Donald Trump and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have both campaigned on his behalf.
Sanders described Bevin's perennial controversies as evidence of his commitment to Kentucky.
"You've got an incredible governor here that has taken a lot of heat for taking strong positions," she told supporters at an Oct. 14 campaign event in Louisville. "Don't make him take it alone."
The most recent polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight projects a Beshear-Bevin tie.