Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Mike King offered a stunning piece of testimony this week supposedly aimed at convincing state legislators to move forward on Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to merge KDOT and the Kansas Turnpike Authority.
His testimony should have exactly the opposite effect.
The governor contends that the merger would save the state $15 million a year, and his budget reflects a $30 million saving over the next two years. However, when members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee asked King Tuesday how those savings would be achieved, he had no answer. “There has to be a significant amount of duplication,” he opined, but, “no we do not have that list.” King added that his department would start working with the KTA to find those savings if lawmakers approve the merger.
Beg your pardon, Mr. King, but that is putting the cart before the horse. It would be irresponsible of legislators to approve such a merger — not to mention a $30 million budget cut — without having any idea how it would impact KDOT and Kansas Turnpike operations. As Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, noted, “It seems like a number (the $30 million) just picked out of thin air because that made the books balance.”
The KDOT secretary deserves credit for his honesty, but it may make Kansans wonder about other numbers plugged into the governor’s budget plan.