Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sebelius plan would raise tolls to pay for university repairs

Governor unveils her proposal Wednesday morning

January 31, 2007


— Motorists would pay higher tolls on the Kansas Turnpike to fund numerous repairs at state universities under a plan outlined Wednesday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"This plan is responsible and focused, and it allows us to enhance the academic mission of our universities now and in the future," Sebelius said.

The proposal calls for spending $575 million over the next seven years.

Of that amount, $300 million would come from a surcharge on turnpike tolls of up to 5 percent per year for seven years. "We do have some asset potential in the turnpike," Sebelius said.

Sebelius' plan also would accelerate payment of $75 million in bonds on a previous "crumbling classroom" initiative, which is similar to a recommendation by the Kansas House.

And the proposal would allow $200 million in loans from the state's Pooled Money Investment Board.

The proposed increase in tolls would have to be approved by the Kansas Legislature.

House leaders said they opposed an increase in turnpike tolls.

"I believe transportation funds should not be used for purposes other than transportation," House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said.

House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, called the toll proposal a "university tax."

But Sebelius defended her plan, saying it didn't raise taxes, Kansas Turnpike tolls would still be among the lowest in the nation, and it addressed a problem that had been forming for years.

She added that she was open to other ideas.

Reginald Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, praised Sebelius for producing "a serious, creative and comprehensive proposal for addressing the challenging maintenance issues confronting our state university campuses."

The six regents universities have said they have a backlog of approximately $660 million in needed repairs, many of which are critical to the schools' operations.

In 2004, for instance, a broken water pipe flooded the main administration building at KU Medical Center, causing an estimated $1 million in damage, officials said.

Earlier this month, an 84-year-old water pipe on the campus of Kansas State University burst, disrupting classes in several buildings.

The issue has been simmering for years. Higher education officials say the repair projects keep piling up because the state gives them about $15 million per year for maintenance when they need $85 million annually.

Last year, the regents recommended a tax increase and borrowing to address the problem, but the proposal died in the Legislature.

In 2004, universities said they needed $584.5 million. That number increased last year to $727 million, including $285 million for the KU campus in Lawrence and the Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

But last week, lawmakers told school officials to pare down the list by removing repairs at buildings not essential to education, such as Allen Fieldhouse at Kansas University.

KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere said the top priority for KU would be $8 million in repairs to utility tunnels that carry heating, cooling, Internet and telephone lines.

"Some of these tunnels were hand dug by first- and second-generation Kansans more than 100 years ago," Larivere said.

Another problem building is Malott Hall, which houses KU's chemistry department and pharmacy school, he said. "Malott Hall opened in 1954, and it looks, feels, and smells like 1954 in Malott Hall," he said.

College students statewide also have urged the Legislature to come up with more funding, requesting a down payment of approximately $180 million as part of a multi-year plan.


KS 11 years, 3 months ago

Nobody doubts that repairs are needed, but keep your mits out of the turnpike tolls. The State of Kansas already takes money from the highway fund for the general fund. That is money that you and I pay at the pump as part of our highway taxes. It was used by the State to balance the budget. Not prudent, as they say. Use road taxes for the highways and NOT the general fund. This is why the State of Kansas does not want us to car pool. Too much tax revenue from the gas tax. If the State is allowed to start using turnpike tolls, there will be no end in sight. This is extremely BAD policy. When this fails in the House and Senate, then the Governor will say that the lack of funding for the universities is not her fault. She will blame it on the Republicans. Does she think we are really that dumb?

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

Well, KS, she did that with school funding, she has done that with every, single issue that requires a tough choice; she is a purely political animal; yet she was re-elected by a wide margin. So, yes, she thinks Kansas are that dumb, because they have proven they are.

guesswho 11 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps bad policy, but any better suggestions out there?

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

If I pay a toll that will go to a school, I would want the road to lead me to that school. Maybe we could set the SLT up as a toll road and make some additional money on it. Then we could move the home games back to the school and everyone wouldnt have to drive to Arrowhead to watch our out of town home games.

Also, this would fit in great with the fact that the new seating ordeal at the university is Loved by the fans

drewdun 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey Godot: still waiting on the proposal from the GOP controlled legislature that provides more than $15M/year for the repairs. Using the Republicans 'plan' it would take 50 years to fix the backlog.

Punting - what else are Republicans good for?

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

""We do have some asset potential in the turnpike," Sebelius said."

Asset potential? You see the possibility of increasing fees/taxes as an "asset?" Doe that mean all of us poor taxpayers are nothing more than "asset potential" to you?

BigDog 11 years, 3 months ago

I guess by raising the turnpike tolls the Governor can claim this is not a tax increase. I would like to hear her explain how the two are connected, especially since the turnpike is self-funding and receives no state funds. And since when has the Governor or state set turnpike rates.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

Maybe they should raise tuition costs to cover road expenses???

terrapin2 11 years, 3 months ago

I disagree with most of you for several reasons, beginnning with the fact that no one else in our state gov't has come up with a reasonable source of funds to fix the problem. Secondly, I think many of you are missing the plus side of this approach. A lot of the toll money paid to KTA comes from out of state traffic which is passing through Kansas, so that would actually reduce the burden on Kansas residents to foot the bill for their own universities & colleges! That sounds like a much better plan than taking the money from somewhere else in an already tight budget. And on an individual basis what's the big problem with paying 25 cents more each time you drive on the Turnpike? I know for me personnally I'd be fine with it, and on average I use the turnpike 5-10 times each month driving between Topeka & Lawrence or Paxico & Lawrence. And finally, is anyone challenging the Governor's claim that Kansas has some of the lowest toll charges across the country? I know I couldn't believe how many times I had to throw quarters into the numerous automated toll booths around Chicago!

riverrat2 11 years, 3 months ago

I believe the Governor is about to discover that even thinking about the KTA as a source of $$$ for all the years of evident neglect and incompetent management of Kansas colleges isn't going to happen.

A real political misstep to even announce this.

KUDB99 11 years, 3 months ago

"incompetent management" by the Republican led state legislature, you, of course mean........

Bruce Bertsch 11 years, 3 months ago

So where do all you "agin its" think the $$$ is going to comefrom to fix the infrastructure issues on the campuses? If it were me, I'd raise the tax on cigarettes to $4 per pack and raise the gas tax another $0.30 per gallon to encourage non-smoking and conservation of resources. That should raise enough revenue to cover the infrastructure and to allow for the removal of sales tax on food and clothing. Need to raise the fees for bars and package stores as well.

BigDog 11 years, 3 months ago

Damn "moderationman" if that is moderation, I would hate to see liberal man. The state brings in about $350 million per year in food sales tax, not sure how much more on clothing. So to cover this you would have to have over a billion $$ tax increase.

Maybe you ought to suggest that idea to the Governor.

cellogrl 11 years, 3 months ago

I actually agree with terrapin2 as well. I go back and forth between Topeka and Lawrence 2 - 3 times a week and I would have no problem with this. I know that the students are already overburdened with tuition since I recently WAS one and an increase in tuition to fix the classrooms would probably just result in fewer students. It's really not that big a deal to increase tolls 5%. What cheapskates you all are if you are bitching about this!

Stephen 11 years, 3 months ago

Raise out of state tution for the state colleges, We could rename the turnpike, The Illinois State turnpike.

craigers 11 years, 3 months ago

cellogrl, maybe I am reading the article wrong, but I believe it is 5% per year for up to 7 years. Don't think it will be just 25 cents. That comes to about a possible fare increase of 40% in 7 years. I don't think anybody would be happy with that. Toll road fees are for the road!!

OvRtheRoad 11 years, 3 months ago

It's actually close to a 50% increase over a 7-year period. Plus, remember than not everyone travels just Lawrence to Topeka. The things we buy at many local stores come on trucks that go the long distances.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

Ok, lets put 2 and 2 together, how many people would travel on the toll roads to get to our home games that are played at arrowhead????

BigDog 11 years, 3 months ago

budwhysir .... are you thinking that maybe Lew Perkins put together Governor Sebelius' plan? hmmmmmmmm

cellogrl 11 years, 3 months ago

craigers, I read it as up to 5% for a total of 7 years meaning that the 5% increase would be gone after 7 years. That's what I thought. Sorry!

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 3 months ago

Governor Sebelius has put forth a serious and workable plan to fix a problem that the state has been ignoring for the last 20 years.

Maybe it is not the best plan. She said she was open to other suggestions, so let's hear 'em.

Name-caling and knee-jerk paranoia are not plans to fix a serious state problem.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

yourworstnightmare, is this realy a SERIOUS "STATE" problem?????

white_mountain 11 years, 3 months ago

How about:

  • cutting spending
  • offering incentives to lure businesses to Kansas to increase the tax base
  • establishing voluntary taxes to pay for things (what, you wouldn't voluteer to pay higher taxes? you do when you vote status quo)
  • reallocating the budget to find the money without raising taxes / tolls
  • using tuition money to pay for it

Tychoman 11 years, 3 months ago

I think this is an excellent idea. You rock, Sebelius.

salad 11 years, 3 months ago

This is a TERRIBLE idea, road tolls should be used for the roads.

Bruce Bertsch 11 years, 3 months ago

Dear white_mountain, You obviously have not been paying attention. There isn't a lot left to cut. What kind of incentives? TAx cuts? Ooops, that means less revenue. Tuition has increased by 100% over the last 5 years. Lets insure that we have no future and drive our best students out of state. Since the only thing mandated for funding in the constitution of Kansas is k-12 education, and it takes up a huge chunk of the budget, just what do you reallocate?

samsnewplace 11 years, 3 months ago

How about raise taxes on gambling, alcohol and tobacco? These are all not a necessity of life, yet transportation is for those of us who commute everyday. I'm all for helping, but let's share the tax here with everyone!

Ghost78 11 years, 3 months ago

I've seen a whole lot of people say "road tolls should be used on the roads" here, but never any explanation as to why ... I'm looking for a common sense explanation here, not an economic policy rant ...

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

This would be more of a toll rather than a tax.

Oh, here is something else to think about, if you want to go to the college to visit, you have to pay for a pass to get on the grounds

satchel 11 years, 3 months ago

Typical lib move. Raise toll on a turnpike which is supposed to be for road repairs.

So.. do ya think the toll will go back down after the repairs for the University are done? NOT.. Then where will the money go? They will keep taking it from us. That is true with every tax the libs push on us for anything.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

Do you think the repairs on the universities will ever be "done"? NOT. Do you think the uniersities will even use the money for repairs? Not.

BigDog 11 years, 3 months ago

I've seen a whole lot of people say "road tolls should be used on the roads" here, but never any explanation as to why ... I'm looking for a common sense explanation here, not an economic policy rant ...

I don't know if this is common sense or not ... you can judge that ....

The Turnpike does not receive state funding, it was created to be self sustaining with tolls being paid to support the repair and improvement of the turnpike. And I am not sure it wouldn't take a change in statute to allow her to do this.

This would be like increasing the fees on drivers license to fund mental health services.

nbnozzy 11 years, 3 months ago

For you nay sayers on this issue, the money will be allocated from somewhere. So, just where do you prefer it come from? Higher property taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, sin taxes, etc.....

A five or ten cent increase per fare on the turnpike will quickly raise the revenue needed. A very simple solution. But of course you have a BETTER idea, right??

Remember, these are PUBLIC Universities so as Kansas taxpayers, WE are responsible for the repairs. Now, you want to fully burden the load of the costs or would you rather out of staters traveling through on I-70 help pay the bill?

Think people....

white_mountain 11 years, 3 months ago

Dear moderationman, you obviously have bought into a very bad idea of using toll roads as a subterfuge for general funding. This was never the intention of having toll roads.. or does that just not matter to you?

Why can't the university system manage its own budget? It's absurd to rely on Joe Trucker from Oklahoma to pay for Kansas university repairs.

Would you support my idea to establish a voluntary tax fund to pay for the repairs? And would you contribute to it? Why or why not?

By the way, when you offer incentives to lure businesses into Kansas, you grow the tax base. It's how states have grown their economies since the beginning of time. It doesn't mean lower tax revenues.. it means larger revenues in the out years.

roundabouts2000 11 years, 3 months ago

I have an idea. Do not build any more buildings on campus. If some someone wants to donate money for a new building earmark the funds to fix up an old building and then slap their name on it. Problem solved.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

KU has over a BILLION dollars in their endowement fund. Repairs can be made to the campus JUST from the annual interest. If an endowement fund isn't for the future continuation of the university, I guess I don't understand. KU, KSU and others seem to have more than enough money to build new buildings. This is no different that the State of Kansas via KDOT building another bridge on a road and then saying they don't have enough money to maintain them. Yes, I guess she does take us for being pretty dumb. We keep electing these folks (D or R) and keep looking the other way. This idea is really dumb and we are dumber if we allow it to happen.

oldgoof 11 years, 3 months ago

KS: "If an endowement fund isn't for the future continuation of the university, I guess I don't understand" . Oldgoof suggests that indeed KS absolutely does not understand. 95% plus of assets of endowments are legally restricted to intent as specified by donor. i.e. when Oldgoof leaves $1,000,000 for the purposes of scholarships for left-handed LJW blog posters with I.Q's of less than 80, that is the only legal way that the $$ can be expended.
. Oldgoof personally thinks that if he were to donate to build a building which the state should really be paying for, that at the very least the state should do is heat, light, and maintain the building for the future.

Bone777 11 years, 3 months ago

Nice bureaucracy!!!

The Kansas turnpike was not even suppose to still have a toll after some time in the late seventies.

Now look at all that they try to fund out of a 'temporary fund'.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

terrapin2 - It doesn't make a tinkers darn who pays the tolls! It matters that the tolls are to take care of the road and not to satisfy all the dream lists of those on the state payrolls that want "whatever". The universities caused this problem by not taking care of the property that has been entrusted to them. Let them figure a way I recall when Joan Finney was a Democrat female Governor, the same problem was addressed and she told the Board of Regents to fix the problem themselves. I admired her for that position. The universities didn't listen either.

Keep you hands off highway funds. They already take enough. PERIOD

irishlad30 11 years, 3 months ago

Why not just do away with the good- for- nothing athletic programs at the major universities and funnel that money into the most important reason for going to college "the crumbling classrooms".

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

oldgoof - I tend to agree with you on the endowement and scholarships, etc. Taking that to the max, then there should be more people getting scholarships. They aren't! Like Perkins, they just want to see the bank account and not be responsible beyond that. Then people wonder why people look for tax loopholes! Quit wasting the money and we all would not have to pay so much.

imastinker 11 years, 3 months ago

I avoid the turnpike already. 24-40 and K10 go into KC and 24 and 40 go into topeka. The speed limit is lower and I get better mileage to boot.

I wonder how many more people will do this. I really get frosted over going to wichita with the $10 tolls.

kujayhawk7476 11 years, 3 months ago

I don't agree with the Governor's proposal.

However, even though I am a Republican, I am smart enough to realize that the Republican controlled House and Senate have shirked their duty for far too long. It's time to stop campaigning and legislating on cutting taxes and do what is right. Do you suppose any of those Republicans have failed to do repairs on their own homes? I doubt it.

Face the music you losers! We voters should run you out of town for not doing your jobs!

beardedmystery 11 years, 3 months ago

The state OWNS these buildings, the state should pay for, at the least, the basic upkeep.

toefungus 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey, I have an idea. Turn toll tickets into lottery tickets. Just pay an little extra and get a chance to win BIG. It would be the only lottery toll in the nation, another great first for Kansas. Get a scratch and win toll ticket for just one dollar more. Cash only. K-Tag users sign up and get a random number each time you enter, all automated. Winners announced daily. Check on line. Missouri has boats on the river, but we have lottery on the turnpike! And for those powerball players, win a chance to speed. Winners can go 5, 10, or even 30 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. If your pulled over and hold a winning powerball ticket, you get a coupon for a free meal at the service centers! I love revenue hungry Kansas.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

A toll road in every county, a university in every town, what a concept. Maybe the KU K-state football games could be played at an arena in Topeka therfor creating another home game played away. This would allow for increased income on the toll road, and would also allow KU another 1 million per game. Just a thought.

budwhysir 11 years, 3 months ago

Make it an even 600 million and we could fund all day kindergarten for a while too. Oh wait, this isnt for schools its for the university, sorry.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

kujayhawk7476 - It doesn't make any difference if the legislature is controlled by a D or R. I still blame the schools for not using the money they get wisely. How many new buildings have you seen pop up on the west campus of KU recently? Where did that money come from? Same thing at KUMC. A broken water line that causes a million dollars of damage? Have you seen the money they are spending at that place. If you have not been there lately, it is worth the trip. Where did all that money come from? I just can't believe they don't have the dollars to fix things up. They just refuse to and want to pass the buck to the legislature. KTA is a slippery slope. They have already taken as much as they can from the highway fund and now are looking at another deep well. Stealing from highway funds is horrible management by the State of Kansas, D or R!

I was in Salina last week and was surprised to see the "fairly new" campus of K-State on the west side of town. Where did they get the money for that? Same thing for the Edwards Campus of KU in JoCo? They have money to build all of that, but can't fix a broken water line?

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

"The state OWNS these buildings, the state should pay for, at the least, the basic upkeep"

Not unless the state has the right to accept or decline "gifts" of the buildings, and has input into their design and construction. At this point, the state has no say.

The legislature must tie any funding for repairs to a requirement that any future endowment for a building include a pepetual maintenance fund. If there is no such fund, there should be no new building.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

" Do you suppose any of those Republicans have failed to do repairs on their own homes? I doubt it.:

The legislature has no oversight over KU's budget. The Chancellor is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the buildings and infrastructure at KU. The maintenance at KU began its decline under Budig, and came to a grinding halt when Hemenway took the helm.

This problem does not belong to the legislature, it belongs to the Board of Regents and the people they hire.

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

Godot, that's a start. I don't know who has the input into the design of some of these buildings on KU Campus? Talk about ugly on ugly!

KS 11 years, 3 months ago

Godot, you and I agree on this one. It's amazing how a new roof can be put on Allen Fieldhouse, but when it comes to Strong Hall? "We ain't got no money!"

davisnin 11 years, 3 months ago

Hmmm, this sounds great. Its like a geographical tax increase on the parts of Kansas with the least dense population. And, yay!, Johnson County wouldn't have to contribute a cent except on their weekly jaunts to taste the culture of Topeka.

Redirecting funds specifically set for a certain project (the toll system is meant only to allow for high quality interstate availability through areas that are too low in population to justify large scale infrastructure) is dangerous and historically leads to mismanagement and pork. (Wasn't the lottery supposed to fund schools at one point?)

Future mismanagement of toll revenue to fund past mismanagement of University budgets yay.

But I guess Malott is stinky so lets go forward with this plan.

Godot 11 years, 3 months ago

KU is autonomous in its financial management. Barabara Ballard made sure that happened.

Hemenway, you asked for it, you got it. Live with it.

I look at it this way. You wanted buildings; Kansas taxpayers did nothing to help you build them, so you went out and raised the money the money you thought you needed. Same principle ought to apply to maintaining those buildings.

not_dolph 11 years, 3 months ago

"And the proposal would allow $200 million in loans from the state's Pooled Money Investment Board."

I might have missed it, but didn't see anyone jump on this one either. This piece really adds...well, nothing! Universities are not going to borrow money they know they cannot pay back, so why offer a low interest loan? If they had the money they would use it (or could be required by the Gov/Legislature to use it) for repairs, but alas, they do not.

Overall, this proposal is really not realistic and will fall back to the Universities to find a solution. Thanks for trying though...

Also, some were bashing GOP lack of input or plans earlier in this thread...the House is on record with a proposal that would fund $76 million - as a downpayment, if you will. Not too shabby, and doens't require all the funny math this KTA suggestion would require to make it work.

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