Adjournment = Disaster for T-WORKS

Kansas Legislators toiled for 73 days before finally adjourning in the early morning hours of May 2. The final measure enacted, as is customary, was the omnibus budget bill addressing shortfalls in state resources through funding raids, delayed payments and an invitation for the Governor to make more cuts in state programs.

For transportation, it would be hard to call this session anything short of disastrous. The continued drain on transportation dollars by folks in Topeka has left our state’s transportation program, T-WORKS, in a shambles. 

Despite being assured that previous transfers wouldn’t impact the program, we all know that’s not reality. Projects have been cancelled, maintenance put off and investments in local partnerships rejected or reduced.

Not only has this action broken a promise to all Kansans, but it also has a profound negative impact on our state’s economy. Where is there another program in state government which offers such a profound job creation record?

When enacted in 2010, lawmakers were enthusiastic about the 10-year program.  It came on the heels of an extensive effort to meet with community leaders throughout the state to identify the highest transportation needs and generate support for a funding source.

Many of those projects have been completed, but many still remain. Here is a link to the full listing of projects affected by these cuts.

On a slightly more positive note, legislation which would have permanently de-funded T-WORKS, SB 463, did NOT advance this session. It would have taken the dedicated sales tax revenue for transportation and moved it into the state general fund, effectively eliminating 35% of statewide transportation funding. I credit the strong, effective voices of Economic Lifelines member organizations for helping lawmakers understand the disastrous ramifications of that measure.

The final omnibus budget passed by lawmakers marks the end of what was a very contentious session, replete with no easy or attractive options. And although they’ve adjourned for the year, there is considerable speculation that a pending decision by the Supreme Court regarding the new school funding formula could bring lawmakers back for a special session in coming months. Stay tuned!

Michael Johnston
Chief Executive Officer
Economic Lifelines

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