TOPEKA — A proposal to issue up to $1.7 billion in bonds over the next decade could become the biggest sticking point for Kansas House members as they consider whether the state should embark on a new transportation program.
House leaders aren't sure whether a bill creating the $8.2 billion, 10-year program could pass their chamber. The bill calls for financing highway, bridge, rail, airport and public transit projects mostly with state-issued bonds.
"That's a huge amount of bonding," said House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson. "I don't know whether it passes over here or not."
Supporters hoped a transportation bill would clear the Republican-controlled Legislature on Saturday and go to Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson, who backs a new program.
The Senate approved the bill late Friday, but lawmakers adjourned late Saturday before the bill could come up in the House, where lawmakers had yet to review it. Legislators plan to reconvene today for the last day or the last few days of their annual session.
The transportation bill has been a priority for some legislators and local officials, as well as construction companies and the Department of Transportation.
Transportation Secretary Deb Miller said she was disappointed that lawmakers didn't finalize the bill over the weekend. "I suppose Monday will be soon enough," she said.
The new program would follow larger ones that were enacted in 1989 and 1999 and widely seen as successful. Kansas officials credit those programs for Reader's Digest ranking the state's 10,000-mile highway system the best in the nation.
Besides issuing bonds, the state would boost registration fees for heavy trucks to pay for projects. Proposals to hike the state sales tax also would set aside some future revenue for the plan.