Lawmaker has plan to close Bank of KDOT

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Nearly $3 billion, and counting, that you meant to cover repairs to your roads, the state has instead used to cover other Kansas bills.  Now one state senator wants to stop those sweeps from the so-called Bank of KDOT.

"Ever since I can remember that's been one of the big complaints of citizens, is why does the state always rely on the Bank of KDOT instead of balancing the budget without it?  And there's an opportunity for us to fix that," said Senator Richard Hilderbrand, a Republican from Galena in Southeast Kansas.

Hilderbrand took time out of his Christmas Eve to discuss a constitutional amendment he's pre-filing for the 2019 legislative session with Pilar Pedraza.  It would outlaw withdrawals from the Bank of KDOT.

"So hopefully we can stop those budget gimmicks, those supposedly one time stop gaps that we used in perpetuity," Hilderbrand explained.

Since 2011 the state has been taking an increasing number of the tax dollars earmarked for road and bridge work to pay other bills.  The total now sits at more than $2.9 billion according to a report this summer presented to the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force.  

KDOT has had to delay and cancel road works projects in recent years due to those losses.  In some cases, local city and county governments have picked up the cost, essentially charging taxpayers twice for the work.

"What this constitutional amendment will do, it will stop that," said Hilderbrand.  "So anything that is collected for that 4/10ths has to go to road and bridge - preservation or new construction." 

The most common way to pass a constitutional amendment in Kansas requires approval from two-thirds of lawmakers, followed by a simple majority of Kansas voters.  Senator Hilderbrand believes that's possible.

"I think if they would listen to their constituents and actually do what their constituents want, I think it's a really good chance," he says of getting the necessary legislative support.  "So it's all going to depend on who they're listening to up in Topeka."

This is one of the first legislative items being pre-filed for the 2019 session.  You can expect to begin seeing others in the next couple of weeks.  The session officially begins January 14th.  The budget will be a big part of lawmakers' job this year.

"I think the last Consensus Revenue Report says we're going to have $306 million more," Hilderbrand said.  "So instead of spending that money, let's use it to stop raiding KDOT, let's use it to stop delaying our KPERS payments.  Let's take care of our obligations that we have, before we add new obligations onto the state."