Kenton Mayors group gets legislative update from Sen. McDaniel who cited ‘conservative’ management

By Patricia A. Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

Kentucky Senator Chris McDaniel gave an update on the legislative session to the Kenton County Mayors who were gathered at the Lakeside Park city building Saturday.

“This is actually my first budget session since I took over as budget chairman in 2015 where we didn’t have to deal with either a true societal anomaly like COVID or some really bad financial situations,” McDaniel said. “And so the conservative nature of what we’ve been doing, we’ve been saving, we’ve been not spending, has led us to the point where we have been able to make some pretty tremendous investments.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

The result of better money management has led officials to believe that by January of 2026 they might be able to cut the income tax rate by 3½ percent.

McDaniel talked about the Commonwealth Center for Biomedical Excellence that will be located somewhere in Covington and about several roads such as Stevenson road and Orphanage, and repaving Dixie Highway from Orphanage to I-75. He said Turkeyfoot will be widened in certain areas.

He talked about schools, such as Ludlow and Beechwood, and how the SEEK program was changed a little, but he said there is a finite amount of money in the SEEK program, so when one area receives a little more, another area has to receive less.

McDaniel discussed the Brent Spence bridge, but when he opened the floor to questions, Steve Hensley, Kenton County Emergency Management Director, asked what has been done to address the problem of accidents on the new bridge or just before it. He said emergency vehicles will have a problem getting to them immediately because they have to go back as far as Buttermilk Pike to access the expressway. He said there have been some conversations with Bob Yeager from the transportation district, but no one has come up with solutions.

“The transportation thing is going to be, the Brent Spence will break ground next year,” he said. “The spin off of issues that come with that big of a construction project running right through the center of the district are going to be tremendous, and I am going to have to have band width with folks on that.”

Another question came from Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann who asked what McDaniel would do in the future if he had a magic wand.

“I probably would try to work this time around on cyber security,” he said. “Potentially tie ins with artificial intelligence issues, particularly as it relates to critical infrastructure items. I continue to think that we are woefully neglecting the idea of cyber security, and that is nationwide, not unique to Northern Kentucky.”

He said he isn’t a conspiracy theorist but he said a lot of people have experienced hacking, or ransoms being held for data, and he thinks it is a problem.

“In the back of my mind I feel like we are kind of one very bad event away from everyone waking up and saying, oh wow, we are way behind on this!” he said. “Kind of the cyber version of a 911 moment, where all of a sudden we all wake up and think, Oh, no! Like it could be the hospitals shutting down, or someone pouring excess chlorine in the drinking water, or someone shuts the power grid off. Or maybe a major bank, and all its customers wake up one day with zeros. But I think there will be an event somewhere that will make us realize how far behind we are. We really need to think long and hard about that.”

Hensley brought up that there was an event last week where there was an email address hacked, and that person then sent a bogus email to the Secret Service. He said he thought McDaniel was spot on with the idea of cybersecurity.

McDaniel said they were about to put $50,000 down in Madisonville for the secondary Department of Criminal Justice Training center, and he said that will really relieve the congestion at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.

“Some of the forecasting that we have gotten right now, is that once we get that thing fully operational, that we may be cutting down our wait time to get officers in to about a month,” he announced. “So that would be really nice!”

Lakeside Park Mayor Paul Markgraf asked about parks, saying some of them are deplorable.

McDaniel said they did get some money for the Kentucky Horse Park, saying that was their cash cow. He said there was a movement several years ago to try and get public/private partnerships to help with the parks, but that idea didn’t take off.

He said the current thought is that if they aren’t going to close the parks, they should at least maintain them and make them look better. A plan was submitted but it wasn’t viable, so the second version came out better and the state was able to appropriate a couple hundred million dollars for the parks. A lot went to fix the electrical grid in the southern part of the state, because the groups that thought they could take care of it decided they could not maintain it. McDaniel said they were able to give money to Jenny Wylie, Cumberland Falls, Natural Bridge, Rough River and others.

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