Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Governor dismisses idea of selling Kansas Turnpike

June 18, 2003

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— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is not considering selling the Kansas Turnpike to a private group, her spokeswoman says.

"This is not something the governor is considering," Nicole Corcoran-Basso told The Kansas City Star on Monday.

Some conservative legislators have suggested selling the 236-mile highway as a way to provide money for the state without increasing taxes.

Corcoran-Basso said the idea was discussed last year after the election, but before Sebelius took office in January.

"It was never seriously considered by any member of her administration," Corcoran-Basso said.

Corcoran-Basso's comments followed Sebelius' receipt of a letter dated Wednesday from Mike Johnston, the turnpike's president and chief operating officer.

He advised Sebelius that any proposal to sell the road would be "vulnerable to attack."

"Frankly, given my own professional and political experience, I find it hard to imagine gaining approval of any workable plan," wrote Johnston, a former state Senate minority leader and secretary of transportation.

He said in the letter that a sale probably would result in higher tolls and lower levels of service.

A 1992 report by the Reason Public Policy Institute in California, an advocate of privatization, estimated the 47-year-old turnpike's value at $900 million. There is no more recent estimate.

Bob Corkins, executive director of Kansas Legislative Education and Research, a group of conservative lawmakers, said several of his board members asked him early in May to look into a sale.

But those legislators dropped the idea because there was not time in the closing days of the session to deal with it.

"We don't have any notion it's going to happen overnight, but we'd like to see the state continue to explore the possibility," Corkins said. "Our members have said many times they would like to see the state divest itself of a number of its assets."

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