TOPEKA — Gov. Mark Parkinson on Tuesday signed what he called "one of the most important jobs bills passed in the history of this state."
The $8.2 billion bill lays out the framework for improving and maintaining Kansas' transportation infrastructure over the next decade. No specific projects will be announced until February, by which time a new governor will be making the decisions on what is funded.
New money for the plan — which covers roads, public transit, aviation and railroads — comes from a $100 increase in heavy-truck registration fees, funds from the state's sales tax increase, and $1.7 billion in bonds.
Parkinson, a Democrat, praised lawmakers who voted for a three-year 1-cent increase on the state sales tax rate. A portion of the initial increase will go to fund roads projects and after three years 4/10 of a cent will remain on the sales tax to help pay for projects.
That vote was more important than even a vote for the transportation bill itself, he said.
"A vote for revenue was a vote for jobs," he said.
The program allocates $4.6 billion to highway preservations projects over the next 10 years. With the bill, the Transportation Department will be able to start work on some of the projects it had suspended when the budget was uncertain, Parkinson said.
Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said the measure "initiated yet another decade of renewed dedication to Kansas transportation."
She noted that "the immediate jobs and economic impact created by the construction program kept the Kansas economy moving forward when economies in neighboring states were faltering in the 1990s." and predicted the new program would do the same.
Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, who has been a strong proponent of the state's transportation programs, said he had always been optimistic that the measure would pass.
Driving throughout Kansas, Morris said, he saw first-hand how important good roads were for the state.
"In my view you cannot have high-quality economic development if you do not have a high-quality transportation system."
In addition to work on roads, starting in 2013 the transportation program:
* Allots $11 million a year for transit programs
* Assigns $5 million a year to aviation projects
* Gives $5 million a year to rail projects
The program also pumps $1.63 billion into the Special City County Highway Fund, which divides highway dollars among local government groups, and leaves about $1.8 billion for highway expansion and modernization projects.
While Parkinson signed the actual bill into law at the Topeka event Tuesday, he is traveling around the state, including Wichita, today for ceremonial signings.
Parkinson praised the Legislature for passing a transportation program that would improve the state's economic development even as other states are cutting back.
"All these other states think they can shrink their way to greatness, we know that is not true," he said.