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Kansas Lawmakers React to “Highway Robbery” Charges

Billboard erected by the Kansas Contractors Association (Photo from KCA website)
Billboard erected by the Kansas Contractors Association (Photo from KCA website)

 A lobbying campaign being waged by highway contractors has Kansas lawmakers on the defensive. Billboards put up by the contractors accuse Governor 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. Senator Jeff Melcher fired back at a Statehouse hearing today (WED). The Leawood Republican called the charges a “gross misrepresentation of reality.” 

Bob Totten is Executive Vice President of the Kansas Contractors Association. He says the transfers have not yet affected the transportation department’s ability to take on new projects. But he says about half of the money earmarked for maintaining Kansas roads and bridges has been siphoned off. Governor 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.


This story was contributed by Jim McLean, of the KHI News Service.


Jim McLean, Executive Editor of KHI News Service, oversees the KHI News Service. From 2005 until 2013, McLean coordinated all communications activities at KHI as Vice President for Public Affairs. The position he now occupies was created as part of a strategic initiative to solidify the editorial and operational independence of the KHI News Service. Prior to coming to KHI, McLean had a distinguished career as a journalist, serving as the news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. During his more than 20 years in Kansas journalism, McLean won numerous awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Kansas Association of Broadcasters. In 1997, McLean and two Capital-Journal colleagues received the Burton W. Marvin News Enterprise Award from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism for a series of stories on the state’s business climate. McLean holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washburn University.