Local city and county officials today said they were pleased that Gov. Joan Finney has decided to give her full support to the state highway program enacted three years ago.
The big local project riding on the highway program is the South Lawrence Trafficway $27 million of the estimated $42 million cost for the project's first two lanes comes from the state highway program.
The governor said in her budget address Tuesday that she supports continuing the present transfer of about $81 million in sales tax revenue from the state general fund to the state highway fund.
Some legislators think that because budgets are tight this year, a raid may be attempted on the highway funds that are to be transferred from the general fund.
For example, Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said today that the highway program may find itself competing with education and social service programs for funding late in the session.
"PHILOSOPHICALLY, I believe in the highway program," Praeger said. "But there may be a time when we have to make tough decisions. . . . I think it's too early to comment on whether we're able to retain that entire pot of money."
The $27.7 million going to the local trafficway project is funded out of the system enhancement portion of the highway program.
So far, a second major road project for Lawrence, the Eastern Parkway project, has not received any state funds, said Chris McKenzie, Douglas County administrator.
However, McKenzie said county and city officials will be working to secure more state and federal funds for the eventual circumferential, four-lane road system serving Lawrence that includes the trafficway and the parkway projects.
Two Douglas County commissioners and Lawrence's mayor said today they were pleased with the governor's support for the highway program, which was high on the city and county commissions' lists of legislative priorities.
"I'M OBVIOUSLY very pleased," said County Commissioner Mike Amyx. "It's something that is one of our top priorities. It means a tremendous amount to the South Lawrence Trafficway and to the Eastern Parkway. We're very pleased that the governor is concerned about continuing the program."
County Commissioner Louie McElhaney said he was pleased about the governor's decision to defend the highway program.
McElhaney said he was afraid that if lawmakers ever start removing highway funds, there will be battles over which programs will get additional funding.
"Everybody will try to justify why they think their program should be funded partially out of that highway fund," McElhaney said. "Then they'll be battling among themselves to get that money. . . . I hope that they don't start digging into that highway fund."
Lawrence Mayor Bob Walters said the highway program is important to the city and the state.
"I think highways are one of the engines of economic development for the state of Kansas and are very, very important," Walters said. "We need to continue to improve and to expand our network of highways."
Walters said city and county officials have managed to attract funding for the first two lanes of the trafficway and hope to attract more state funding to finish the final two lanes of the project.
"I WOULD also hope we could manage to ask the state to look at funds for the Eastern Parkway," he said.
On another topic, both Amyx and McElhaney said they were pleased the governor wants to continue giving counties $3 million a year to help cover the cost of reappraisal.
About 6 percent of the county's $707,679 reappraisal cost for fiscal year '92 is funded by the state.
Amyx said that like any program, reappraisal costs are going to rise next year.
McElhaney said he didn't think $3 million was enough for the whole state.
"But if that's all we can get, we're going to have to do our best to make it work. That is not enough to do all the work that is required in the counties, but we appreciate any we get," he said.