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Kansas Senate GOP leaders like turnpike-KDOT merger

Updated: 2013-03-16T02:48:25Z

The Associated Press

— Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate said Friday that they are hoping to revive Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to merge the operator of the state’s only turnpike with the Department of Transportation, which has raised fears that tolls would be used to plug unrelated budget holes.

Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said the legislature currently has no oversight over the finances of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, which manages the 236-mile toll road that runs from the Kansas City area to south central Kansas. She said the authority’s $90 million in reserves is evidence it is overcharging motorists.

Brownback’s administration estimated that the merger would save $30 million over the next two years, but it hasn’t provided details.

Legislators in both parties have said they don’t want toll revenues being diverted to non-turnpike uses, something the Brownback administration said it isn’t planning to do.

But during a news conference held by GOP legislative leaders, Wagle said the authority’s reserves are among “other pots of money” that could help with the budget.

She termed the merger “an excellent idea.”

Some legislators question the timing of the idea when massive income tax cuts have created a budget shortfall.

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