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Infrastructure Deal Has Billions of Dollars for Kansas, Unless Congress Hits the Brakes

 A file photo showing Interstate 70 in Topeka. (Photo by Stephen Koranda, Kansas News Service)

 

A trillion-dollar infrastructure plan advancing through the U.S. Senate would bring more than $3 billion to Kansas as part of a plan that will do everything from repair roads and bridges to pay for public transportation.

It would also pour money into electric vehicle charging networks and high-speed internet.

There’s still plenty more work to do to get the agreement through Congress, but the bill has passed some initial hurdles and new documents released by the White House to build public support for the spending give a concrete look at how the plan could impact Kansas.

The report from the White House focuses on how aid distributed based on a formula would help repair infrastructure such as pothole-filled roads and bridges decaying to the point that weight limits are reduced.

“For decades, infrastructure … has suffered from a systemic lack of investment,” the White House said in a statement touting the agreement.

The documents show $3 billion coming to Kansas for roads and bridges.

The bill is smaller than an initial proposal that included much wider categories of aid. The new plan has gained some bipartisan support by slimming down the spending to more traditional infrastructure priorities.

Still, it includes far more than roads and bridges.

Kansas would get $40 million for the chargers needed to power electric vehicles. While EVs can offer long-term cost savings in places like rural areas, the lack of a charging system is one of the hurdles to widespread adoption.

Almost $375 million would flow to Kansas to help expand broadband internet access and improve public transportation.

The deal, so far, hasn’t attracted the support of Kansas senators.

Republican Senator Jerry Moran didn’t initially vote to advance the bill, saying it shouldn’t start moving before the text was available. More recent reports show he is considering support for the bill.

The other Kansas Republican senator, Roger Marshall, has also not supported the bill. He and Moran penned a letter to President Joe Biden urging more funding for biofuels.

Part of the complication of passing the infrastructure plan is that it would be part of a larger two-bill strategy. The infrastructure plan and a $3.5 trillion spending bill for social programs. The president says the two are related and that both should pass together.

Marshall wrote an op-ed decrying broadening the definition of infrastructure. The larger bill includes what the president has called “human infrastructure,” such as free preschool and community college tuition and expanding child tax credits.

“Make no mistake, there is nothing ‘infrastructure’ related about it,” Marshall said in the op-ed.

Democrats hope the bipartisan spending plan can pass the Senate in the coming days.

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Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse reporter and news editor for the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Koranda. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of Kansas Public Radio, KCUR, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
 

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