Legislative Update: March 22, 2019

Hearings started in the Senate and House on the package of bills introduced to implement the recommendations of the Legislative Transportation Task Force.

Read the report from Legislative Research regarding task force recommendations here.

Read more about the bills introduced to implement the recommendations.

Hearings were held in both houses of the legislature on:

  • Transportation Planning
  • Tolling authority for KDOT Secretary
  • Registration fee increases for electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Increased fees for special permits for oversized/overweight vehicles.
  • Increasing motor fuel taxes by 3 cents.
  • Authorizing use of LAVTR funds for local transportation projects.
  • Exempting local transportation projects from the tax lid law.

Also heard in House Tax was a non-Task Force bill raising the motor fuel tax by $0.06 that directed all the revenue from the increase to KDOT and reduced the amount of sales tax receipts going to the State Highway Fund. The Motor Carriers Association initially came out opposed to the special permit fees legislation but worked with KDOT on a compromise that they now support. 

Senate Transportation Committee this week passed out the bill raising registration fees on hybrid ($75) and electric ($100) vehicles. Based on discussions, other measures that may be reported out are the transportation planning and special permits increases. 

On Monday, the Senate Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing on Julie Lorenz’ appointment as Secretary of Transportation. The Committee voted unanimously to advance to the Senate their recommendation to approve the appointment.

The Legislature is approaching a procedural deadline on March 27 to move Second House of Origin bills. The deadline does not impact the transportation legislation detailed above. First adjournment of the Legislature is April 5, 2019, with the Veto Session beginning May 1, 2019.

Click here if you are interested in further detail on legislation, legislative schedules and listening to Senate or House proceedings. 

Thank you for your ongoing support of building a vision for transportation in Kansas.

Ed DeSoignie

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Gov. Outlines Plan for FY 2020 Transportation Investments

Today, Governor Kelly joined Transportation Secretary Lorenz in announcing plans to invest $160 million in transportation projects across the state.


During the press conference, specifics were provided about funding mechanisms as well as projects which will move forward immediately.

The $160 million slated for FY 2020 spending will do the following:

  • Increase the highway preservation investment from $350-400 million.
  • Move forward with four delayed T-WORKS projects:
  • US-54 in Seward County
  • US-169 in Anderson County
  • US-281 in Russell County
  • US-50 in Lyon County
  • Reinstate the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program
  • Implement a new cost-share program for state/local partnerships
  • Enhance KDOT safety program
  • Increase City Connecting Link maintenance payments
  • Increase funding for modal programs

These investments are aligned with recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force which met last year. We are grateful to Governor Kelly for her diligence and thoughtful work on transportation issues in Kansas. We will continue to keep you updated on developments from the statehouse.

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Road crew staffing spotlighted in Kansas budget debate: The Macon Telegraph (GA)

Kansas has trouble keeping road equipment operators from leaving for other, better-paying jobs — so much so that supervisors worry about being able to cobble together crews to clear snow after blizzards and to fill potholes quickly. READ MORE

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TESTIMONY: DeSoignie to Transportation Task Force – Salina

The following testimony was presented to the Transportation Task Force by Economic Lifelines interim director, Ed DeSoignie, in Salina on September 6th, 2018. A printable PDF version of the testimony is available here.

Chairman McGinn, Chairman Proehl and members of the Transportation Visioning Task Force, thank you for the opportunity to come before you and provide some brief comments.

My name is Edward DeSoignie, I represent Economic Lifelines.  As some of you might know, Economic Lifelines was founded 30 years ago at the urging of Governor Mike Hayden. Governor Hayden believed in the need of a private sector organization representing communities, businesses and transportation interests to communicate and work with the Legislature and Governor to address the transportation needs of our state.

A listing of our current members is attached to my testimony. Please take a moment to take note of the diversity of the membership which includes local governments, local chambers of commerce, transit, commercial trucking, rail, labor, contractors and consulting engineers.  It is this diverse membership of groups and individuals that has supported these programs for the past 30 years.  It is an organization of transportation interests that is not often found in other stattes.

In 2009 and in 2010 Economic Lifelines we worked closely with the Legislature and Governor in developing and pressing for passage of the ten-year transportation plan: T-Works.  Prior to that we had worked with the state elected leaders on passage of the statewide transportation plans: the 1989 Comprehensive Highway Program and 1999 Comprehensive Transportation Program.  So here again we find ourselves, working with the next generation of leaders to provide with the information you will find necessary in developing your report to the 2019 Legislature.

Today, after years of using transportation funds for other parts of the state budget, we are faced with maintenance needs we are not able to fund, with planned improvement projects that have been deferred and with other community, business and safety needs across that state that can’t be funded.

We will be speaking with you in future Task Force meetings along with our individual our members, some of which are present here today, as we look forward to working with you to find solutions to the challenges that face us.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

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EL Update: Task Force Dates Set

Greetings from Topeka.

Like others, we’re anxiously watching the election results as votes in the GOP primary race for Governor continue to be counted, possibly recounted & eventually verified. Meanwhile, Democrat nominee Laura Kelly and Independent candidate Greg Orman have started campaigning against both Gov Colyer & Kris Kobach amidst the uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the newly created transportation task force has begun its work. They held the first meeting in Topeka on Monday, August 6.

The meeting was an opportunity for the task force members to organize their fall schedule of stops, set overall goals, explore topics most interesting to the membership and learn about the history of transportation programs past.

Committee members from the public and private sector heard from the agency about the current system condition and the 21 projects currently on hold. The committee learned that throughout the course of T-WORKS the agency has $2 billion less than what was anticipated in revenues and will either need to issue additional bonds or have more revenue by FY 2020 or the agency may have to look at turning back federal funds.

We hope you can attend the various meetings of the task force. Here is the schedule:

  • Salina – September 6th
  • Wyandotte County – September 12th
  • Pittsburg – September 20th
  • Newton – October 4th
  • Garden City – October 11th
  • Wichita – October 18th
  • Hays – October 24th
  • Johnson County – November 8th
  • Manhattan – November 9th
  • Topeka – November 28-29

As you make plans to attend these important discissions be sure to consider attending any and all in your KDOT district, if you are not familiar with your KDOT district feel free to look that up here.

If you are hoping to testify on behalf of your community, organization, or company it will be important for you to be aware of the conferee guidelines, which you can find by clicking here.

And lastly, this will likely be my final “official” communication to you as Economic Lifelines executive director. Later this month I’ll begin a new career chapter serving the membership of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives in government relations. It’s been an honor to work for you & the great membership of Economic Lifelines. The executive committee of Economic Lifelines has tapped Ed DeSoigne to serve as the interim director. Ed’s lifelong career advancing transportation issues in the region make him ideally suited to step into this role as we keep building momentum for new investments in Kansas.

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Editorial: Kansas is neglecting its highways. Raiding the transportation budget must change: Wichita Eagle, Feb 13, 2018

Whatever our neighbors in Oklahoma and Missouri once bragged about, Kansans could always think, “Yes, but our roads are so much better.”

That’s no longer the case. Many areas of Kansas have state highways in need of repair or modernization. Anyone who travels the state has a two-lane highway they would rather avoid because it’s too narrow, bumpy or is without a safe place to pull over.

The Kansas Department of Transportation needs $380 million annually to maintain the state’s roads, but hasn’t received that much in years because the Legislature continually raids KDOT’s budget to fund other government needs labeled more pressing. Former Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed tax-cut policies helped fuel the revenue problem. READ MORE

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Kansas has spent $3 billion meant for roads on other things. Stopping will be hard: Wichita Eagle, Feb 12, 2018

More than $3.3 billion of your tax dollars meant for highways have been spent elsewhere over the past 20 years.

It has gone to shore up other areas of state spending. In turn, the state is delaying nearly two dozen projects to repair or expand highways at the moment.

Calls to stop using highway funding for other purposes are mounting, and now, Kansas’s new governor has joined in.

“We must end the highway funding sweeps and build an effective plan that promotes economic development and strengthens our transportation network,” Gov. Jeff Colyer said in his first major speech to lawmakers last week. READ MORE

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Top 10 Reasons to support SB 285

Below are the Top 10 Reasons to support SB 285 to #BuildAVision for Kansas Transportation by establishing a special task force to set transportation priorities for the State of Kansas.

  1. 23 projects outstanding: We must develop a plan to get the 23 projects that remain incomplete through the T-WORKS program back into the project pipeline.  Currently there is no plan to get those back to construction. Link to announcement and list. 
  2. New needs: We have a lot of emerging needs that need to be evaluated alongside the 23 outstanding projects to best plan for future infrastructure investments.
  3. Safety: We have serious safety concerns along Kansas roadways.  We know communities in our state today that fear sending kids on the bus and waving good-bye to their loved ones because of the safety issues on their commutes.
  4. Economic Growth: If we want our state to grow we must have the ability to invest in capacity needs – transportation is all about future planning and Kansas communities are planning for growth, the state needs to prepare accordingly.
  5. New Data: In 2018 we now have new and more innovative data that will help us to prioritize infrastructure needs and interconnectivity in new ways from a multi-modal perspective.
  6. Broad stakeholder support: The task force itself represents a wide-variety of stakeholders who have expressed their commitment and support of assisting the legislative task force and lending their industry expertise to the important conversation
  7. The time is now: With changes to the federal infrastructure plan, with similar discussions happening in our neighboring states, the time is now for Kansas to have a plan for the coming years of infrastructure needs.
  8. Return on Investment: Infrastructure investments have positive return, they turn around in state and local economies at significant rates.  Studies indicate that for every $1 invested in this area there is $3 of economic activity generated.
    *Source: 2015 Business Roundtable Study
  9. Opportunity to re-evaluate State General Fund and State Highway Fund relationship:  This is a great opportunity to begin the discussion about how the SGF and SHF currently co-exist and what we want that to be like in the future.
  10. Build a Vision:  This is an opportunity for legislators to work directly with industry and users to establish a vision for how we want our state’s infrastructure to operate in the future.  Kansas is known for innovative solutions to solve our biggest problems and with some time and work we have the chance to build a vision that will last here in Kansas.
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Kansas transportation officials push for task force on state’s road needs: Topeka Capital-Journal, Jan 25, 2018

Communities, builders and economic development organizations are pushing legislators to take a comprehensive look at the Kansas transportation needs after the state spent years sweeping highway funds to support a faltering state budget.

Members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee have taken on a bill that would create a 27-member task force charged with looking at Kansas’ progress on its eight-year-old transportation plan and making recommendations to the Legislature. Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican, said the committee would continue discussing the bill after its initial hearing Wednesday. READ MORE

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EL NEWS: Kansas Transportation Issues to be Evaluated Under New Legislative Proposal

Topeka, Kan. —Transportation issues in Kansas would be evaluated with an eye toward developing a new plan to address them under a proposal introduced today in the Kansas Legislature. The establishment of a newly formed transportation task force would set in motion a statewide initiative to identify current and future transportation needs throughout Kansas.


Embodied in a bill introduced by Sen. John Skubal (R-Overland Park) in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the task force would be comprised of legislators, transportation stakeholders from the private sector, and other Kansans representing interests ranging from local units of government to public transit agencies. It was patterned after a similar task force appointed to develop the 2010 T-WORKS program.

“I’m excited to have our state engage in a productive dialogue on transportation,” stated Sen Skubal. “Far too often in public policy, we react to situations rather than plan for them. I am hopeful we can get a handle on how our current program should be adjusted and what the best return on investment will be moving forward.”

Organizations interested in advancing transportation and economic development issues in Kansas voiced support for the task force, noting that ongoing transfers from the highway fund to other areas of state government have left much of the 2010 program unfinished.

“We are encouraged by the growing number of elected officials – and other Kansans – who are expressing support for a renewed emphasis on transportation,” said Tara Mays, executive director of Economic Lifelines, a statewide coalition of transportation supporters. “It’s time to build a vision for our state’s transportation system, enabling communities throughout the state to grow and prosper.”

The proposal would set a target of January 2019 for the task force to complete its work.

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