Transportation in Kansas has long been the envy of other states. With a series of comprehensive highway programs adopted by Kansas lawmakers over the years, our transportation system has aided in fulfilling countless local economic development projects, enhanced safety for motorists and preserved critical highway infrastructure throughout the state.
Unfortunately, over the years as state budgets have grown tight, funds originally dedicated to the states highway program have been shifted to fund shortfalls in other areas of government. In fact, more than $600 million has been taken from the Kansas Department of Transportation since T-WORKS was passed in 2010. Those shifts in funding quite simply translate into transportation projects that wont be completed, despite their value to local communities.
The most recent highway program, T-WORKS, is funded primarily through a 4/10 cent sales tax. It has brought major new roadway projects to many Kansas communities, along with enhancements to aviation, transit and rail. In fact, the legislation establishing the program stipulates that at least $8 million be spent in each Kansas county. To date, that promise has been met in 74 of our states 105 counties. This dedicated funding source is imperative in funding multi-year projects, many of which are reliant on bond financing.
The T-WORKS program is a proven job creator, with a conservative 175,000 construction and supplier jobs directly attributed to the initiative. The economic impact is enormous, measured at adding $10 billion to the Kansas economy over the life of the 10-year program.
Yet, current shortfalls in the states treasury are putting the program at risk. It will be tempting for some to consider taking from the bank of KDOT to plug budget holes. But we urge caution in this approach. Cost savings and efficiencies are one thing and all areas of government must constantly work to find them -- but taking additional tens of millions from transportation today would be penny wise and pound foolish. Kansas cannot attract new business and grow our economy without investments in infrastructure.
Johnnie Koger, Co-Chair Economic Lifelines