Lawmakers Reacting To “Highway Robbery” Charges

Feb 3, 2016

Credit Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons

A lobbying campaign being waged by highway contractors has Kansas lawmakers on the defensive.

Billboards put up by the contractors accuse Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers of committing “highway robbery” by diverting more than a billion dollars from the transportation department to plug holes in the state budget.

Sen. Jeff Melcher fired back at a Statehouse hearing today Wednesday. The Leawood Republican called the charges a “gross misrepresentation of reality.”

“I think we’ve spent over $800 million just in Johnson County on the T-WORKS program," Melcher said. "The biggest issue we have is all of our roads are being rebuilt. I don’t think we can tolerate another orange barrel in Johnson County.”

Bob Totten, head of the contractors association, says the transfers haven’t yet affected the transportation department’s ability to do new projects. But he says about half of the money earmarked for maintaining Kansas roads and bridges has been siphoned off.

Brownback is urging lawmakers to approve another $25 million in highway fund transfers. That would increase the total amount transferred since 2015 to nearly $870 million.