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Kansas Senate Committee Recommends Confirming Carlson To Head KDOT

Stephen Koranda
Kansas Public Radio
Acting KDOT Secretary Richard Carlson speaking to the committee Tuesday.

A Senate committee has recommended the confirmation of former Representative Richard Carlson to head the Kansas Department of Transportation.

However, it wasn’t a unanimous vote. Democratic Sen. Anthony Hensley noted that Carlson chaired the House Tax Committee in 2012 when the state slashed income taxes.

In recent years, the state has repeatedly taken money from the highway fund to help balance the budget.

“Mr. Carlson really led the effort in the House to pass a plan that has basically decimated the Department of Transportation and the highway fund," Hensley said.

KDOT has delayed some projects recently amid funding concerns. Carlson said taking money from the highway fund has been used by governors of both parties, and he does not think it’s related to budget problems caused by the tax cuts.

“I don’t see any connection. On tax policy or the budget you can make connections between dots that don’t exist,” Carlson said.

Republicans on the committee defended Carlson and the condition of KDOT. Sen. Ty Masterson pointed to the other funding the agency receives outside of money that can be swept by lawmakers. He said that amounts to around $1 billion.

“Decimation of the Department of Transportation is certainly one person’s opinion,” Masterson said.

The committee also unanimously ndorsed the nomination of Tim Keck to permanently head the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Hensley cited improvements made by Keck at the state hospitals and said he hopes the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare, would see similar improvements.

“I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I think you’ve done a really good job turning things around in the agency itself,” Hensley said.

Joseph Norwood was recommended by the committee to be confirmed as corrections secretary.

The confirmations will be considered by the full Kansas Senate next year.