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Originally published Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 4:56 PM

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Kan. House OKs 10-year transportation plan

Kansas legislators sent Gov. Mark Parkinson a 10-year, $8.2 billion package of highway, bridge and other transportation improvements on Tuesday, seeking to build on investments made in 1989 and a decade later.

Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. —

Kansas legislators sent Gov. Mark Parkinson a 10-year, $8.2 billion package of highway, bridge and other transportation improvements on Tuesday, seeking to build on investments made in 1989 and a decade later.

The House passed the plan 86-38 in one of its final actions of the 2010 session, which ended Tuesday. Since Senators have approved the measure, it goes to Parkinson for his signature.

The Democratic governor had made the plan one of his priorities from the start of the session.

"This makes Kansas a better place to live," said Rep. Margaret Long of Kansas City, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

The plan will be financed through a variety of sources, including a sliver of the new 1 percentage point sales tax increase legislators sent to Parkinson earlier Tuesday. It also authorizes the state to issue up to $1.7 billion in bonds, as well as raise registration fees on heavy trucks and tap federal bonds programs.

"As we continue to work our way out of this recession, this new transportation plan will be a tremendous economic development engine for our state, creating tens of thousands of jobs throughout Kansas and investing billions into local communities," Parkinson said in a statement. "Every Kansan, every county and every business will benefit from this project."

Opponents in the House said the plan was too expensive and was rushed to the floor without thorough review. Senators inserted the plan in a House bill, meaning the chamber either had to accept it as it was without making amendments or send it to committee. But because the session was ending Tuesday, it was unlikely it would have been worked out before legislators left Topeka.

"I'm certainly not against transportation," said House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, a Lakin Republican. "I think it would be nice to have some discussion about this."

Senate President Steve Morris made the transportation plan a key piece of legislation for the session. He said passing the plan was important for the state to convey to contractors and others associated with transportation that Kansas "isn't going to let things slide."

"If I had my way, we would have passed transportation last year," said Morris, a Hugoton Republican. "The longer you go you have for people who say that we can get by and can't afford it. We can't afford not to."

While House supporters from both parties said the plan was a means for creating quality jobs and spawning economic development across the state, critics argued that Kansas couldn't afford to go deeper in debt.

Rep. Steve Huebert said the Washington practice of "tax and spend" had found its way to Topeka, adding that the transportation plan was the first step toward making the sales tax increase permanent - as has happened in the past.

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"We can't continue to do it," he said.

Morris said Kansas' rural nature means a solid transportation system is a must to keep goods flowing through the state, but transport is also key for urban areas such as Johnson County in the northeast.

"They fuel the economy. It's important to help their growth there. We don't want them to get gridlocked because of infrastructure," he said.

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Transportation is Senate Sub. for HB 2360.

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On the Net:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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