Kansas lawmakers eye highway funds for other uses

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Kansas Legislature is scheduled to convene the 2015 regular session in six weeks. When lawmakers return to Topeka, one issue that is expected to come up for discussion is whether to raid the state’s highway fund to fill budget gaps elsewhere.

According to state estimates, the state has a shortfall in excess of $700 million in the current and upcoming state budgets.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, is the state’s top budget writer. He has indicated that the state’s transportation system is doing well enough to allow lawmakers to temporarily draw from the highway account to support other budgets.

The state last approved a transportation funding plan in 2010. The 10-year, $8.2 billion program is funded through sources that include an increase in the state’s sales tax and higher truck registration fees, and bonds.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes actions that would divert money from transportation for other purposes.

The Association, which represents nearly 2,600 Kansas truckers, has communicated with leading lawmakers in the Kansas House and Senate, and Gov. Sam Brownback regarding their concerns about potential legislative action to divert transportation funds for other non-transportation-related programs.

OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek said he pointed out to lawmakers that road and bridge improvements are investments for future economic growth, and diverting funds allocated for such use would be a step backward.

“Kansas has committed to investing in its infrastructure to more efficiently and safely move people and goods across the state. … We hope they will honor that commitment,” Matousek said.

Legislators can start work on the state’s budget when the session convenes on Jan. 12, 2015.

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