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Kansas Senate Committee Recommends Confirming Carlson to Head KDOT

Acting KDOT Secretary Richard Carlson speaking to the committee Tuesday. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

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

However, it wasn’t a unanimous vote. Democratic Senator 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,” says Hensley.

KDOT has delayed some projects recently amid funding concerns. Carlson says governors of both parties have taken money from the highway fund and he does not think it’s related to budget problems after 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,” says Carlson.

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

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

The committee also endorsed the nomination of Tim Keck to permanently head the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

That vote was unanimous. 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,” says Hensly.

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.

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