A Southeast Kansas state senator files legislation he says will help protect funding for state roadway projects. Senator Richard Hilderbrand says the final touches are being put on a bill that would create a new constitutional amendment.
It would prevent the legislature from transferring money away from the Kansas Department of Transportation that Hilderbrand says comes from sales tax revenue collected specifically for the agency. Hilderbrand is filing what’s known as a “senate concurrent resolution,” which varies from normal legislation in a few ways.
First, it takes more than a simple majority to pass it. Two-thirds of the Senate would have to approve, before going to the house where it would take another two-thirds majority vote. Then, instead of going before the governor for approval, it would go on the ballot for voters to have the final say.
The resolution Hilderbrand is pre-filing says “the purpose of this amendment is to prevent transfers and limit expenditures from the state highway fund to only those items related to transportation set forth in the amendment.” Hilderbrand says in the past, that’s been a big problem for the state.
“You’ll hear a lot of rhetoric of, ‘oh, well, we fixed the budget, or our budget is structurally sound.’ That’s false. We have robbed over $290 million out of our KDOT fund this last year, and the year before it was over $290 million,” says Senator Richard Hilderbrand.
And in roughly a decade, Hilderbrand says that amount is more than three billion dollars. He says that’s money that should have gone to projects like bridge repair on Route 66 in Riverton, and the expansion of Highway 69 to four lanes. Because that money was moved, Hilderbrand says those projects have been delayed. But he says his resolution would put an end to that.
“It will forbid state legislators or the governor from robbing from KAPERS, essentially it will close the bank of KDOT, from using it for a, for lack of a better term, slush fund for the state,” says Hilderbrand.
He says the legislation is necessary, because the legislature can’t kick the can down the road any further.
“We’re to the cliff, so we need to pull ourselves off the cliff, we need to put, for lack of a better term, handcuffs on government so they can quit robbing from Peter to pay Paul,” says Hilderbrand.
But the question is how much support will the proposal gather?
“I’m anticipating it to be a struggle, a battle, because anytime you rock the cart, they don’t like it,” says Hilderbrand.
Once the bill is prefiled, there won’t be any more action taken until the legislature returns to session next year. They’re scheduled to begin working at two o’clock the afternoon of Monday, January 14th.