Rogers talks roads, defense during 'Eggs and Issues' breakfast

Apr. 23—If U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers has anything to say about it, there's no place like home.

Rogers stopped by Somerset Tuesday to discuss ideas both local and national during the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues breakfast, held at the Lake Cumberland Farmers Market at the Citizens National Bank Pavilion.

While Rogers had plenty to say on issues of national defense and security, he started his speech talking about how important it was to him to be able to live in Somerset.

"Even when I'm in Washington, my work is focused on home," he said.

And while it's true that many young people today have the opportunity to work here in Pulaski, Rogers noted that wasn't the case when he was younger.

He said that in his youth, young folks were expected to leave the area to find work in places like Lexington or Cincinnati. That need to leave to find a good-paying job left a mark on him, he said.

"We need to recruit our best and brightest students to use their talents here at home to shape a better future," he said.

He noted that it was more possible these days, with the University Center of Southern Kentucky being hosted as Somerset Community College and being able to give students four-year degrees without having to leave the county.

But it's also important to bring even more job opportunities here to the area, and one way of doing that is to have better roads, he said.

Rogers brought up one recent roadway achievement that he was able to help secure funding for: the new interchange at Ky. 461 and East Ky. 80.

"The new interchange out on 461 and 80 has nearly eliminated all traffic accidents in that whole area and has streamlined the flow of traffic at Valley Oak, paving the way for new development opportunities," Rogers said. "That interchange was built to interstate standards, anticipating that one day things may change."

Those changes may be coming soon, as Rogers stated he had secured a $45 million earmark for a northern bypass project that will run through Pulaski County — one that would essentially join I-65 and I-75 by connecting the Cumberland Parkway which is soon to be considered an I-65 spur with the Hal Rogers Parkway, leading into I-75.

That project was one of $86 million that was earmarked for community projects within his 5th Congressional District, he said.

As the chairman of the House Appropriation Committee and a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Rogers is well aware of the funding needs for both community projects and defense budgets.

In this year's federal funding package, Rogers stated, he helped secure funds for crucial work that supports national defense, "including vital drone technology here in Somerset."

In fact, his interest in helping both national defense and those who have served in the military helped local leaders in securing a piece of surplussed military equipment: a tank.

"When local leaders reached out to me last year to get a tank for the new Veterans Park in downtown, we were able to call some contacts in D.C. and told them to find one and get it done. And they did," Rogers said. "So, I'm proud that the tank is here. After a fresh coat of paint and some safety features are added to it, it will be ready to take the stage at the new Veterans Park."

Turning his attention to national defense matters, Rogers said he had worked this past Saturday to grant funding for American allies like Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine.

"Foreign aid may not get the popular vote, but it's critical for the United States to maintain our military strength on the world stage," Rogers said. "What's important about Ukraine, it's not just Ukrainians that we're trying to fight for."

It's also a war against Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said.

"Putin as you know has said time and again, his goal in life is to restore the old Soviet Union of which Ukraine was a part. The Ukrainians are fighting off this terrible aggression and I think we deserve no better than to help them in that fight."

He also said he helped secure funding for Israel's defenses, which has been heavily depleted during their conflict with Gaza and could put them in a vulnerable position against other enemies such as Iran.

"We've got to let Russia, Iran and China know that we're going to stand up to them and we aren't going to back down to their threats against us or our allies," Rogers said.

Bringing his focus a little closer to the U.S., Rogers discussed what he felt were problems with the country's current policing of its border with Mexico.

"The house passed the Secure the Border Act last year, but the senate Democrats have refused to bring it up for a vote. Consequently, you've got millions that are stealing into the country illegally," Rogers said. "We can't keep up with them. We don't have the manpower. But the president could change that with a stroke of a pen and restore what was enforced when Biden took office. But he refuses to change and keep illegals out of this country. ... He could close the border with a stroke of a pen, yet he is allowing criminals and illegal drugs to run rampant across our borders, and we're seeing the impact here at home with crime waves in our big cities especially but everywhere else."

Rogers said that the country needs the president to save it from what he called terrible consequences.

"Every state in the country is now a border state, not just Texas, New Mexico, (or) California. It's Pulaski and all points in between. Every state is a border state, and you've got to act like it."

Carla Slavey can be reached at