The Owensboro Riverport Authority hosted U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Congressman Brett Guthrie on Monday to visit with local business and political leaders, and discuss issues of importance to the Commonwealth. Each leader spoke about issues ranging from federal transportation developments to Kentucky’s recent legalization of industrial hemp across the state.
McConnell and Guthrie spoke highly of Owensboro and Daviess County’s recent successes, including the I-165 interstate and the $11.5 million BUILD grant bestowed upon Owensboro Riverport Authority.
“I enjoyed driving here today on 165,” Guthrie told the crowd of 150-plus, who began clapping at the mention of Owensboro’s new interstate spur project. “You know, the number one question I hear is, ‘What’s the difference between the Natcher Parkway? It seems like an interstate anyway.’ And it really did, and I think that’s why it didn’t make sense to use it the way we were using it.”
Guthrie explained that most people who think of a parkway picture a highway with little to no commercial traffic, and how the implementation of the I-165 interstate would bring more industrial recruiters on board for Daviess County, and all of its surrounding counties.
“Well, if you’re in Daviess County, if you’re in Ohio County, if you’re in Butler County, you couldn’t tell industrial recruiters that you had access to interstate highways,” Guthrie said. “You could say, ‘I’ve got a divided four-lane with control access,’ but you couldn’t say you had a red, white and blue shielded path with a number on it. And that’s changed as of a couple of weeks ago.”
McConnell, meanwhile, who reigns as the longest-serving Senate Republican Leader in the history of the United States and was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, spoke about several of Owensboro’s successes beyond the I-165 interstate.
“How about that $11 million BUILD grant?” he asked. “Every time Tom gets elected mayor, big things happen here. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to see what the [downtown] riverfront has spawned. Not only the project itself, but all around it. It’s done a lot to transform Owensboro, and I was really happy to have played a role in that.”
McConnell said the riverfront wouldn’t have happened without some kind of “funds from somewhere,” and McConnell reminisced back to calling Watson the night he found out he had the $40 million for Owensboro’s riverfront.
McConnell spoke about the importance of being, not only a member of the U.S. Senate, but the majority leader, and the positive effects his role has had for the state of Kentucky.
“I get to decide what we’re going to do,” McConnell said. “If you go back a hundred years, my party has only controlled the Presidency, the House and the Senate for 20 of those hundred years. So I said to myself, ‘This may not last very long, so let’s not waste any time.’”
After appointing a record-breaking 30 Circuit Court judges in the first year, McConnell began speaking about the best way to have a far-reaching impact on the communities of America, saying the single best way to make changes was to appoint the right people — in his words, judges who follow the law rather than empathize — to the judiciary.
McConnell said the Senate’s comprehensive tax reform led to a 50-year low in the unemployment rate and a three percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2018.
According to McConnell, his position as majority leader has led to many benefits for those living in Kentucky.
“I’m the only one of the four congressional leaders who’s either not from New York or California. My job is to look out for Middle America, and there’s one particular state in Middle America that I have particular affection for — not surprising,” McConnell said.
One of McConnell’s big focuses for his speech pointed to his recent involvement in legalizing industrial hemp in the 2018 farm bill, which now allows farmers to cultivate hemp across the state of Kentucky.
“We’ve come full circle on tobacco. In 20 years, we’ve gone from 46,000 tobacco growers to 2,600,” McConnell said, repeating those statistics once more. “Clearly, tobacco growing is not what it used to be in this state. The question was, ‘Can there be something else coming along?’”
The President signed the bill into law in December 2019, something McConnell takes credit for.
“That’s an example of how Kentucky having a Majority Leader of the Senate benefits you,” McConnell said. “We level the playing field, and it gives us an advantage.”
McConnell finished his speech by speaking against “Medicare for All” and, in his opinion, its worrisome path toward socialism.
“If you’re one of the 180 million Americans who get their insurance through work, and like it, it’s illegal under Medicare for All,” McConnell said. “Of course, there will have to be a massive tax increase against everybody else. I don’t want you to think this is just a couple of nut cases running around on the fringe. This is a pervasive policy view on the other side.”