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Lobbyists Urge Kansas Lawmakers To Increase Gas Tax To Fund Highway Projects

Doug Kerr, flickr Creative Commons

Lobbyists for Kansas highway contractors are urging state lawmakers to increase the gas tax, but it’s proving to be a tough sell.

Forced to deal with massive budget problems in recent years, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers have diverted billions of dollars from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

As a result, KDOT has indefinitely delayed more than 50 highway projects and dramatically reduced the amount it’s spending to maintain state roads.

Contractors are calling for an increase in the motor fuels tax to generate the money KDOT needs to keep Kansas roads in decent shape.

“Our roads are falling apart and everybody knows it," says chief contractor lobbyist Bob Totten. "And we’ve got to see that change.”

Many lawmakers favor letting KDOT issue more bonds over hiking the gas tax at a time when other tax increases will probably be needed to balance the budget and fund public schools.

Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.