Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Transportation plan deemed ‘unrealistic’

January 21, 2004


— The state had "unrealistic expectations" when it began its comprehensive transportation plan, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday in touting her proposal to issue $465 million in bonds to keep the program on track.

Legislators created the $13 billion, 10-year program in 1999, anticipating that the state would dedicate a portion of its sales tax revenues to highway, airport and public transit improvements. However, legislators have diverted some of those revenues to other government programs.

"This plan was passed, I think, with unrealistic expectations about all the finances," Sebelius said at a news conference. "What we tried to do is say, 'What is realistic?'"

Sebelius said her proposal would allow completion of all major projects promised in 1999 while dedicating less sales tax revenue to transportation, so that other government programs do not suffer.

She also said Transportation Secretary Deb Miller had identified more than $800 million in expected savings over the remaining life of the program. However, $306 million comes from eliminating cash reserves carried over from year to year by the Department of Transportation.

Miller was to present the governor's plan to a meeting of the House and Senate Transportation committees today.

"It was one of my questions from day one, how can make sure we put this back on track and on budget?" Sebelius said.

In the previous and current state budgets, $260 million in sales tax revenue was diverted from highway projects to other uses. Sebelius proposed continuing the diversion in the fiscal year beginning July 1, taking an additional $202 million from transportation projects.

Sebelius has proposed resuming the set-aside of sales tax revenues for transportation by 2007, but KDOT estimates the 10-year program still will have lost $665 million when it ends in 2009.

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