Investment in transportation – specifically roads and bridges – is a core function of government and vital to Oklahoma’s economic development and growth. George Washington in 1785 stated, “The credit, the saving and the convenience of this country all require that our great roads leading from one place to another should be straightened and established by law . . . to me these things seem indispensably necessary.”
Even the founder of our country understood the importance of a good transportation infrastructure.
It’s time we as a state legislature place the same importance on good roads and bridges. The problem has been in these budget shortfall years that competition for scarce funds has intensified. However, if Oklahoma is ever going to get out of the current fiscal crisis, we have to prioritize where our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. Do we continue to invest blindly in those areas that have shown little or no improvement over the years? Shouldn’t the taxpayers expect some return on their investment?
Can we rely on just “oil and gas” for revenue or do we need to diversify our state economy, so we can function when there are downturns in the market?
The bottom line is businesses and the taxpaying population locate where there are good roads and bridges. If we ever want to increase jobs and income in Oklahoma, we need to invest in transportation. It is essential to the development of economically depressed areas. Adequate exits and interchanges are necessary for local communities’ growth all over the state. We want to get off the turnpike and spend money in stores, restaurants, and support our oil and gas industry in filling stations. It always amazes me how many people fail to realize this when every traffic or corridor study and corresponding Cost Benefit Analysis show the same thing. When we invest in transportation, we improve access to both urban and rural areas all over the state – which is good for all Oklahomans.
If other state departments want to compete for tax dollars, it’s time they provide a plan for how those funds are to be spent, and here’s something – be responsible to the public for your results. Transportation is only 4.7 percent of our state budget. We need to stop “robbing” it because other agencies are not doing their jobs. The multiple benefits of investment in transportation, in terms of jobs and economic development, are too numerous to mention in one article.
There is one thing for sure, we need to follow the old adage and “stop robbing Peter to pay Paul.” One thing I’ve learned in state government is that when you take from one agency and give to another, it produces a dependence on those funds from other agencies who should be doing their jobs and doesn’t encourage responsibility or achieve results.
That’s something to think about.