By Stephen Koranda
January 13, 2016
Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to balance the Kansas budget takes another $25 million from the state highway fund. That’s in addition to a $50 million transfer from the transportation department late last year.
Highway fund transfers have raised concerns about the safety of Kansas roads and bridges. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan says state highways are in good shape.
“When you look at the metrics, the percentage of roads and interstates and bridges that are in good condition, they are the same or have improved. The reality and the rhetoric are two different things,” Sullivan says.
Democratic state Sen. Marci Francisco says Kansas is delaying maintenance projects. She’s concerned the transfers out of the highway fund could hurt road conditions in the future.
“Once we build these roads, people want to use them without potholes and without detours. We’ve got to keep up with that maintenance,” Francisco says.
The move helps fill a budget deficit for the coming year that could reach $200 million.
Brownback is also proposing to eliminate a fund for Kansas kids’ programs as part of a move to balance the state budget. The plan would take $50 million from the Children’s Initiatives Fund and put it in the state’s general bank account.
Kansas Action for Children says the move will dismantle an innovative system for funding children’s programs. The group says the change will make it easier for lawmakers to take the money and use it for other purposes.
Sullivan says the change won’t reduce funding for kids’ programs. He says paying for the programs out of the state general fund could mean more stable funding in the future.
“Putting them into the state general fund provides more certainty for them. My editorial comment is Kansas Action for Children is going to complain no matter what we do,” Sullivan says.
The funding for the children’s programs comes from tobacco lawsuit settlements in the 1990s.