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Projects Threatened by Funding Questions

February 16, 2004 (04-021)


News Contact: Krista Roberts  (785) 296-3585 

Topeka - Approximately $550 million in highway improvement projects will be eliminated if the Legislature doesn't approve Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ plan to complete the Comprehensive Transportation Program (CTP), Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said today.

“I have done everything I can to avoid this day,” Miller said at a Topeka news conference. “But the time has come to face facts.  If the Legislature doesn’t approve the plan that Governor Sebelius has proposed to complete the CTP, we will be forced to start cutting projects.  I want to make that absolutely clear to legislators and to the communities they represent."

Governor Sebelius’ plan authorizes the issuance of $465 million in bonds between FY 2007 and FY 2009, the final year of the CTP. The bond proceeds would replace sales tax revenue that budget projections show the state can’t afford to transfer to the State Highway Fund in the remaining years of the program.

The full sales tax transfer hasn't been made in any year since the CTP was passed in 1999. It was withheld in its entirely in fiscal years 2003 and 2004, following the steepest decline in state revenue collections since the Great Depression.

KDOT will complete all of the announced CTP projects if the Governor's plan is approved. If it isn't, Miller said $150 million in projects will be cut in fiscal year 2005, which begins July 1, 2004. An additional $100 million in projects will be eliminated each year for the remainder of the program.

“If the Legislature doesn’t act this session, we are past the point of no return,” Miller said. “The promises they made to communities when this program was passed in 1999 will be broken.”

Miller said an alternative plan offered by Republican legislative leaders will force KDOT to cut $360 million in projects. And she cautioned it was based on the unrealistic assumption that up to 12 percent of state sales tax receipts will be transferred to pay for highway projects.

“I know that many legislators – both Democrats and Republicans – want to save this program,” Miller said. “But in these tight budget times it isn’t reasonable to believe the Legislature will make those revenue transfers. Communities expecting projects need realistic assurances, not more empty promises designed to buy time that we no longer have.”

State Budget Director Duane Goossen said the Republican proposal would require the Legislature to divert money from education, economic development and safety net programs to avoid creating a deficit in the State General Fund.

“The Governor’s plan works from a budget standpoint.” Goossen said. "It allows us to complete all of the announced highway projects while freeing up revenue for schools and job-creation programs, as well as those that serve elderly and disabled Kansans."