Phantom turnpike savings could save the day?

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, R-Andover, has a novel way to help prevent budget cuts to higher education: Use the $15 million to $30 million in savings resulting from the merger of the Kansas Turnpike Authority with the Kansas Department of Transportation. “I would be willing to use (those savings) to keep higher ed where it was at in the governor’s proposal,” Masterson said. The problem is that the savings are a made-up number. The Brownback administration was never able to explain how a merger would save that much money. Also, lawmakers were so concerned that the merger could degrade the turnpike that they only partially merged the agencies, and they made clear that turnpike fees could not be spent on other roadways.