Gov. Laura Kelly and transportation secretary Julie Lorenz are pushing for support of the governor's proposed budget, saying it is the first step toward weaning the state off annual funding sweeps from the highway fund.
In a news conference Wednesday with members of a bipartisan transportation task force, she highlighted infrastructure projects slated for later this year and renewed criticism of a GOP plan that would lower taxes on multinational corporations.
"You have to balance the books," Kelly said. "We cannot do both. We cannot reinvest in our state at the same time we're proposing reckless tax plans."
Kelly plans to eliminate transfers of Kansas Department of Transportation money by 2023, starting with a $100 million reserve next year.
If the Legislature approves, Kelly said, KDOT will move forward with four of 21 delayed highway projects. Work on US-54 highway in Seward County and US-169 highway in Anderson County would start in the fall, and work on US-281 highway in Russell County and US-50 highway in Lyon County would start in the spring of 2020.
"Communities had planned on these projects to meet key transportation needs and provide opportunities to create more jobs," Lorenz said, "and the uncertainty of if and when these projects will be completed hinders our ability to plan for the future."
The governor's budget also provides $5 million to reinstate a program that helps fund local bridge improvements, as well as $50 million for 200 miles of highway preservation work.
A safety program to support passing lanes, turning lanes and intersection improvements would receive up to $10 million. Kelly said the state recorded 405 traffic deaths last year.
"To be clear, we still have a long way to go before we can get our transportation system where we want it to be," Kelly said.
Lorenz praised the work of the task force, which make recommendations that will shape how the agency prioritizes projects. She said the agency will hold regional meetings across the state to gather more feedback.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Sedgwick Republican who helped lead the task force, said she was glad to see the state move forward with infrastructure projects.
"It doesn't matter whether you live in a rural area in western Kansas, your needs are just as important as they are in south-central Kansas and Wichita and Johnson County," McGinn said. "The needs are different, but the needs are there."