Sebelius: Gas tax increase not likely

State leaders preparing for new transportation plan


The Kansas Department of Transportation at 10 a.m. today will release task force recommendations to improve the timeliness of bridge inspections. The task force was formed after the deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse on Aug. 1, 2007.

? Sensing the public would not tolerate an increase in the state gasoline tax at a time of record gasoline prices, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has pretty much closed the door on raising the levy.

Asked whether a gas tax increase could be part of the next comprehensive transportation program, Sebelius said, “I don’t think that’s likely to get much traction from anybody.”

The current $13 billion, 10-year transportation plan expires this year, and officials are laying the groundwork for a new plan. The 1989 plan totaled $2.6 billion. Both plans have relied on tax increases and borrowing.

But where would the money come from to finance what is expected to be billions of dollars of future highway and other transportation improvements?

Sebelius didn’t say, but in an opinion piece written by her and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which recently appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Sebelius said one way to confront the nation’s infrastructure needs would be using public pension systems.

With more than $3 trillion in assets, “pension funds could buy and build infrastructure, putting the profits to work for the retirement of workers, not for the benefit of Wall Street CEOs,” the two argued.

They said pension funds could pool assets to invest in building new roads and bridges. “The steadily increasing streams of revenue that come from tolls and other sources would deliver stable, long-term returns to working Americans, while creating well-paying construction and service jobs connected to each project.”

Sebelius and Stern argued this should be considered instead of the increasing trend by states of selling highways to private companies.

As far as Kansas goes, Sebelius said the state’s next transportation program is likely to look different than the previous two.

She said the next program would be a “more diversified transportation strategy” that increases focus on rail and air transportation issues.

Whether a definite proposal will come forward in the 2009 legislative session hasn’t been determined, Sebelius said.

But an increase in the state’s 24-cent per gallon gasoline tax, she said, “I just don’t think is very reasonable.”