CINCINNATI - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Ohio Gov. John Kasich plan to work together on key issues confronting both states, they announced Tuesday.
The Kentucky Democrat and Ohio Republican met for about an hour Tuesday afternoon in Cincinnati to get better acquainted and discuss issues such as the Brent Spence Bridge, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and prescription drug trafficking.
"We're going to be working on those issues in the coming days and weeks and months, and we think we can make a lot of progress on them," Beshear said.
As governors of adjoining states, Beshear said it's important for he and Kasich to know each other and work together.
It was their first in-depth meeting since Kasich took office in January. Beshear is in the final year of his first term and is seeking re-election in November.
During a press conference after the meeting, both governors said a top priority is to figure out how to fund the $2.5 billion replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.
The 48-year-old bridge is a critical transportation artery for the region, carrying $400 billion in commerce annually.
"We'd love for the federal government to help us out - we're both donor states - but we're not holding our breath on the federal government delivering the money they owe us," Kasich said. "So we have to work together on this."
He and Beshear said their transportation departments would work closely on the issue. They said public-private partnerships would be part of the discussion, and neither ruled out the possibility of tolls to help pay for the bridge.
"From our (Ohio's) perspective, tolls can be on the table here. But we're going to look at everything," Kasich said. "...This bridge really is important, and it's good for both of us."
Another top issue for both governors is the trafficking of prescription drugs and stopping the 'pill pipeline' that runs north from Florida.
Both Ohio and Kentucky have monitoring programs to track the purchases of prescription drugs such as OxyContin. Kasich and Beshear said they want their states to share that information in order to crack down on individuals who travel to one state to avoid detection in another.
A pilot information-sharing program will be launched in Greater Cincinnati this summer, the governors said.
And both states' law enforcement officials, attorneys general, and others involved with the drug problem will "start exploring other ways we can combat this problem," Beshear said.
Kasich said his partnership with Beshear would not be limited to those three issues, but would examine all areas in which the two states may be able to work together for the benefit of both.