Looking to ensure that there’s money for major projects, Republican nominee for Kansas governor Derek Schmidt on Wednesday proposed an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would prevent transportation funding from being raided for other purposes.
“The ‘Bank of KDOT’ needs to be permanently closed,” Schmidt, the Kansas attorney general, said in a news release.
The proposed amendment would create a transportation trust fund and prevent the state legislature from diverting the money for other priorities. Money from the fund would only be able to be spent on capital expenditures to construct or maintain roads, bridges, rail or airports.
The trust fund would hold money generated through transportation related taxes, vehicle registration fees, transportation-related bond proceeds, federal money and fund earnings.
In the past, money has been taken from the highway and used to fund general government services. Some of the biggest sweeps came during Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration when the state grappled with multiple budget shortfalls, following the implementation of Brownback’s signature tax cuts.
“Derek Schmidt spent years helping Brownback drain the Kansas Highway Fund of nearly $2 billion,” Madison Andrus, campaign spokesperson for incumbent Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, said in a statement. “No amount of election-year promises that lack any plan to fund them will distract Kansans from Derek’s real record.”
Kelly was the one who actually closed the “Bank of KDOT,” Andrus said. Kelly brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass and implement a transportation program, which has over 1,000 infrastructure projects in progress to improve the state’s roads, bridges, and highways.
Michael White, executive director of the Kansas Contractors Association, said Schmidt’s proposed amendment would protect the Kansas economy as well as good paying jobs in the state.
“Anything that helps protect those funds, we would definitely be supportive of,” he said. “The transportation system in Kansas is an economic driver. It provides a tremendous economic impact for our economy in Kansas . . . It’s important that we protect the funds that make that happen.”
The proposed amendment is the only way to ensure that they money is spent on transportation.
“Anything else short of this is not a guarantee that the money would be spent on infrastructure,” he said.
Schmidt also announced his intention to prioritize the building of a four-lane highway across southern Kansas that would connected southeast Kansas, Wichita and southwest Kansas, saying it was generations overdue.
“In my view, the construction of Interstate 70 across northern Kansas provides “perhaps the biggest economic return on capital investment of taxpayer dollars in Kansas history,” he said.
“Southern Kansas needs and deserves that same opportunity because in the 21st century, four-lane access is essential for economic growth, particularly in manufacturing and agriculture, which are staples of the region.”