The vice president of the Kansas Contractors Association is blasting state lawmakers for cutting road and bridge spending, which he said has led to a drop in construction jobs.
“More than $2.1 billion has been diverted from Kansas’ transportation program over the past six years,” Bob Totten said. “It’s frustrating.
“We’re taking money out of a program that has been very good, and concerns the safety of our citizens, to make it so that folks get a tax break.”
In a news release, the Associated General Contractors of America pointed to its analysis of numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, which showed that Kansas lost the highest percentage of construction jobs — 4.7 percent — of any state in the country in January.
Kansas was one of only six states, the release showed, to witness a drop in construction employment since January 2015.
When reached for a response, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office pointed to the condition of the roadways in Kansas.
“While construction job statistics vary significantly from month to month, Kansas continues to have roads ranked amongst the best in the nation,” Eileen Hawley said in a statement.
Kansas Contractors Association officials said the states with the lowest demand for construction are energy-producing states — such as North Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska — that have been hurt because of the recent drop in oil and gas drilling and coal mining.
“Yes, we can associate Kansas’ drop in employment with oil and gas industry struggles, but we all know there is more to it, at least in our state,” Totten said. “We just don’t have as much work here in Kansas, so people have had to lay workers off.
“Some of our members have worked in Arkansas or Nebraska or Oklahoma because the market for construction is better in those states.”
The state’s budget for next year, which was signed by Gov. Sam Brownback earlier this month, cut $25 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation. Totten said cuts to Kansas road and bridge funding in recent years are largely to blame for the lack of construction jobs across the state.
“We’re probably going to see another $50 million or more come out of the transportation program in the next month,” Totten said.
The Kansas Contractors Association trade organization boasts more than 235 companies as members, according to the release.