Guest post by Bob Totten, Kansas Contractors Association
Feb. 5, 2017
Did you know Kansas has over 140,000 miles of roads, bridges, and highways? Every Kansan relies on our infrastructure every single day in one way or another, but we frequently take it for granted. We go to work or send our kids to school just assuming that these roads are well-maintained and safe, without giving much thought to how our lives would change if they weren’t.
Strong roads, highways, and bridges also play a key role in our state’s economy. It is a key consideration for companies considering relocating to Kansas, especially given the state’s uniquely helpful location in the geographic center of the United States, intersecting several interstate highways.
This is why infrastructure investment has always been a major component of Kansas’ economic development strategy. In fact, in 2010 when lawmakers enacted a statewide comprehensive transportation plan, three different economic studies confirmed that it would create 175,000 Kansas jobs over the course of the plan.
Unfortunately, Governor Brownback has abandoned his commitment to this proven economic engine. Instead of investing in roads and bridges, the Governor has used highway fund money as a means of shoring up repeated budget shortfalls to pay for failed tax policy. In total, he’s taken over $1 billion from infrastructure investment since 2011, equating to over $1 million every day. As a result, Kansas is now ranked dead last in the nation in the creation of construction jobs. In addition to halting new projects, we’re also failing to maintain the infrastructure we have. Kansas used to maintain 1,200 miles of highways per year. In 2017, the number fell to 765 miles and in 2018, the governor is recommending 230 miles be maintained. If that happened every year that would mean our highway pavements would only be touched for maintenance once every 48 years.
Public opinion polls show Kansans overwhelmingly want state leaders to fund transportation projects. Our citizens expect and demand safe avenues to work and school. In addition, Kansas relies on a good infrastructure to compete in the world market in the agriculture arena. Our livestock and grains are sold around the country and when producers can’t get the products to market, our economy suffers.
With the 2017 Legislative Session well underway, Kansas lawmakers are currently working through their 10th consecutive budget crisis. For the first time in five years, there seems to be widespread agreement that current tax policy is not working and the state cannot continue to operate its finances in such an irresponsible, unsustainable manner. The possibility of enacting comprehensive tax reform seems stronger than ever, which is why so many highway industry professionals support the Rise Up, Kansas proposal.
Kansas roads and bridges are worth protecting. We know tough choices must be made, but we hope lawmakers understand the long-term consequences of continued cuts to transportation and we urge them to consider adjusting the motor fuel tax to help get Kansas infrastructure back on the right track.