Kansas keeps commitment to transportation

opinions

May 12, 2010 - 12:00 AM

An $8.2 billion transportation bill sailed through the Kansas House Tuesday afternoon, giving the state its third 10-year highway program in a row, guaranteeing that Kansas will maintain its enviable reputation for first-class highways. The Senate already had passed the measure. Tuesday’s House victory sent it to Gov. Mark Parkinson.
With that critically important task completed, the 2010 Legislature wrapped up its session and members headed for home.
The 2010 Transportation bill isn’t as big as its sounds. Eight billion, 200 million over 10 years works out to be $820 million a year for construction and maintenance on the 10,000-mile Kansas highway system, state investments in rail and air and the state’s share of local projects. When adjusted for inflation, it is far less than was provided in the 1999 Comprehensive Transportation Program. It is, in a word, sparse.
And it will most probably shrink further if revenues from the highways fuels tax decline as fuel efficiency in cars and trucks increases. The $8.2 billion includes all anticipated income from annual fuels tax revenues and anticipated federal payments.
But that’s OK. Given the state’s humongous budget woes and the anti-tax bias in the state’s Republican Party, Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller can thank her lucky stars for what she got.
She also can take some comfort in future prospects. While it is reasonable to expect income from the state’s fuels tax to grow more slowly, or even shrink, due to increased efficiency, an increase in the federal tax, which is apportioned to the states, is likely. Good highways contribute to the national economy. The federal tax has not been increased since 1992 (how would your family do in 2010 on its 1992 income?). As the economy recovers, Congress will surely see the need for resuming the nation’s role in infrastructure investment.

ONCE AGAIN, Rep. Bill Otto stepped up to the plate and voted yes when his vote was needed. The bill passed by a huge margin, 86-38. But of 76 Republicans, only 38 voted yes. Thirty-seven in what used to be the Grand Old Party, voted no — voted against good highways for Kansas. Without Otto’s vote, the Republicans would have gone on record against building the state; against progress; against making Kansas a better place to live.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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