March 4, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

KSNW-TV reporting on highway funding is wrong

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KSNW-TV in Wichita says Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget will cease highway funding transfers from the Kansas Department of Transportation. A headline reads, “Governor’s new budget would leave transportation money alone.” But that’s not even close to being true.

Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby

Rep. Blake Carpenter, (R) Derby, says much of the reporting about Kelly’s proposed budget is misleading, including that of KSNW-TV.

“There is a reduction in transfers in FY 2020 of about $100 million, but that is a far cry from leaving transportation money alone as the title of the article states,” he says.

The KSNW-TV story eventually explains that Kelly’s budget proposes a reduction in highway funding transfers from KDOT to pay for other state spending. The third paragraph reads, “It’s not a call for new money. It’s a proposal to add by not subtracting. The budget proposal would stop up to $100 million being transferred out of KDOT each year.”

Here are the facts from Kelly’s budget.  She is proposing to transfer $238.3 million from the highway fund to the State General Fund next year; that’s $55 million less than legislators (including then-Senator Kelly) approved for the current year.  She also proposes not transfering $45 million from the highway fund for K-12 transportation next year, so collectively, Kelly proposes transfering $238.3 million instead of $338.3 million that is being transferred this year.

Carpenter says many people just read headlines, and they are mislead by false ones like that topping KSNW’s recent story. Although the headline’s claim is contradicted later in the article, Carpenter says news consumers who read to the end will find an even more egregious inaccuracy.

The story concludes with another inaccurate claim, “The proposal would stop all transfers out of KDOT by the year 2024.”

Carpenter says that bit of information can’t be found anywhere in the budget. 

“We do not have budgets that go out to the year 2024,” he says. Governor Kelly only proposed a one-year budget for Fiscal Year 2020.

He says he hopes news outlets will do a better job in the future.

“It is the media’s job to report the facts and not to mislead the people with puff articles that do not convey what is actually going on,” he says.

The Sentinel reached out to KSNW reporter, Craig Andres, but he hasn’t responded.

If Governor Kelly is thinking of ending highway transfers, she might also be thinking of a big tax increase to offset it.  A long-term budget report prepared by Kansas Legislative Research Department shows more than a $1 billion revenue shortfall over the next four years if no money is transferred from the highway fund, KPERS pension payments are made on time and legislators retain the legally-required 7.5 percent ending balance each year.  And that $1 billion revenue shortfall doesn’t account for any new spending proposed by Governor Kelly.

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