Duane Goossen, former high Kansas government official, says the state’s highways are in trouble. What is his evidence?
In a recent op-ed, Duane Goossen laments the lack of spending on Kansas roads and highways. 1 His focus is his claimed lack spending on maintenance, which, he says, will lead to much larger repair bills in the future.
“But now the Kansas road system is truly threatened.” He raises the common “Bank of KDOT” criticism, writing “The highway fund became a convenient source of cash.”
It’s true, as Goossen writes, that a lot of money has been transferred from the highway fund to the general fund. At the same time, the amount of sales tax dollars transferred from the general fund to the transportation fund has risen, and by a factor of five over one decade.
But it isn’t true that Kansas highways are crumbling from lack of spending on maintenance.
Here’s a chart of the conditions of Kansas roads and highways. 2 It shows that, for interstate highways, the percent of the system in good condition has been pretty level since 2001. For non-interstate highways, the percent in good condition fell starting in 2004, but has rebounded.
Based on these charts, there’s no factual basis to claim that Kansas roads and highways are deteriorating.
But Goossen looks to the future, claiming that a lack of spending now will lead to big bills later. Now, it’s important to know that while money has been transferred from the highway fund, that alone doesn’t tell us about the level of spending on maintenance. Looking at actual spending instead of transfers to and from, we find that for fiscal year 2017, spending on three categories (Maintenance, Preservation, and Modernization) was nearly unchanged from the year before, while spending on the category Expansion and Enhancement fell by 31 percent.
For these four categories — which represent the major share of KDOT spending on roads — spending in fiscal 2017 totaled $738.798 million. That’s down 14 percent from $857.133 million the year before, and up from a low of $698.770 million in fiscal 2010. 3
And adjusted for inflation, spending on maintenance programs has declined somewhat, including in the years when Goossen held high office. These declines, however, are far short of setting up Goossen’s prediction of calamity.
Then, there’s this, which is really incredible. Goossen criticizes some of the bonds issued by KDOT in recent years, and he is on the mark: “And a portion of that debt has ‘interest only’ payments in the first years, with the principal payments still to come.”
However: The state also issued “interest only” bonds in 2004 and 2010. 4 Who was budget director during these years, as well as Secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration? Duane Goossen. 5 But now Goossen criticizes as irresponsible the same action the state took when he was in high office.
Given the insufficient factual basis for Goossen’s claims — not to mention the blatant hypocrisy — we have to wonder if this article is politically motivated. Perhaps it is, as we see Goossen making the maximum allowed contribution to Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly.
Either that, or Goossen is auditioning for another government job.
- Goossen, Duane. Trouble coming for Kansas highways. Garden City Telegram, March 30, 2018. Available at http://www.gctelegram.com/opinion/20180330/trouble-coming-for-kansas-highways. ↩
- Kansas Department of Transportation. 2017 Kansas NOS Condition Survey Report. Available at https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdotorg/bureaus/matResLab/pmis/2017/CSR2017_SW.pdf. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Kansas highway spending. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-highway-spending-2017/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-transportation-bonds-economics-worse-than-told/. ↩
- Goossen, Duane. Kansas Budget blog. Available at http://www.kansasbudget.com/. ↩