A task force examining Kansas infrastructure could consider the merits of raising the fuel tax to stabilize a Kansas Department of Transportation budget that suffered years of annual sweeps, the agency's secretary says.

Richard Carlson says he appreciates the money his agency already gets for roads, including $60 million lawmakers restored this year. Still, it will take several years before new projects are shovel-ready, and the task force will have to consider $600 million worth projects delayed under the current 10-year transportation plan.

In a conversation for Capitol Insider, The Topeka Capital-Journal's podcast on people and ideas in Kansas government, Carlson said he loves driving through the Flint Hills, especially in the spring when already beautiful scenery is enhanced by emerging green. He said Kansas highway conditions are among the best in the country.

"It's still a concern," Carlson said, "but I think our roads comparatively are in very good condition."

The state has had three comprehensive plans for road investments dating to 1989, and the current one is set to expire in a couple of years. Created by the Legislature, a 31-member task force will deliver a report in January to help guide the next program.

Carlson expressed concern about raising a fuel tax that already is higher than some neighboring states, at 24 cents per gallon. He said the state collects about $900 million in fuel tax revenue each year, sharing two-thirds with local entities and leveraging the cash for matching federal funds.

An expansion of the fuel tax revenue could shield the agency from revenue sweeps by providing a dedicated revenue stream for projects. Carlson said it would be a topic for the task force.

In addition to highway projects, Carlson discussed participation in a federal drone program designed to establish rules and regulations for unmanned aircraft. In Kansas, where drones could be used in search-and-rescue missions or crop assessments, research is focused on remote flying vs. keeping the craft within line of sight. Goals include providing universities with programs to teach and license drone usage.

"That's become a major concern because there are well over a million drones out there already," Carlson said. "You can register them, but there's just not any regulations on them. We hope for not too many regulations, but we also want it to be safe."