TOPEKA, Kan. — Legislators serving on the state’s budget committee were warned today that further transfers/cuts from the state’s transportation department will result in scheduled projects not being completed and leave thousands of miles of roadway without maintenance. Economic Lifelines, the state’s leading transportation coalition, said those dire predictions stem from discussions with Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King at meetings during the 2015 legislative session. Friday’s announcement of an additional $50 million in KDOT cuts only make this fear more pronounced, according to coalition leaders.
“Since this highway program was launched in 2011, KDOT has seen $2.1 billion taken from its budget,” stated Economic Lifelines Chief Executive Officer Michael Johnston. “That’s nearly one fourth of the entire program diverted for other purposes. What has been used as a short-term fix to the state general fund deficit is turning into a long-term disaster for our state highways. Clearly, taking an additional $50 million is making a bad situation even worse and as such, we’re asking lawmakers to reject the cuts.”
T-WORKS, the state’s 10 year, $8 billion transportation plan, is funded primarily by a 4/10 cent sales tax and is set to deliver major new improvement projects throughout the state which includes an $8 million minimum investment in every Kansas county. According to KDOT, transfers out of the highway fund include $1.394 billion in extraordinary transfers and $730 million defined as historical transfers.
“The Department of Transportation has been asked to do the impossible—find ways to operate without 25 percent of its budget while still delivering all of the components of the T-WORKS program and maintaining our roads and bridges,” said Johnston. “These transfers are unsustainable and further cuts will result in dire consequences to public safety and jeopardize the investment Kansas taxpayers have made to the state’s infrastructure.”
Budget cuts have already resulted in nearly $300 million in maintenance projects postponed and Secretary King stated last year; further cuts or transfers would result in projects not being completed. During Friday’s announcement, Secretary of Revenue Shawn Sullivan noted that these cuts would cause a delay in preservation programs intended to prevent major repairs in the future.
“We urge all policymakers to reject proposals to further raid transportation coffers in an effort to fund other state agencies,” said Johnston. Johnston, a former KDOT Secretary, said the equivalent of $1 million per day has been taken from the state’s transportation agency for the past several years and that preliminary budget submissions show this trend continuing in both FY 2016 and FY 2017.
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Economic Lifelines is the statewide coalition of organizations and community groups which provide the grassroots support for Comprehensive Transportation Programs in Kansas. Its members believe that the economic development and jobs that are generated by such programs are vital to the stability and growth of the Kansas economy and that of individual communities.