A legislative body is much like a “choir.” It is made up of many “voices” and those voices need to be heard. If not, you just have “soloists” and that doesn’t help the deliberative process that Oklahoma’s state government should have.
I have learned to appreciate that process as House Majority Caucus chairman. With so many members . . . it is like a choir and every member has a message to sing and should never be kept silent. I’ve been singing a “tune” for some time now, very popular with many others. It is titled, “Why do we take money away from transportation?”
Oklahoma made a commitment to the voters to adequately fund our roads and bridges. With the $1.7 billion we spend on tax credits, incentives and exemptions, – along with leading studies saying that we are 49th in the United States in return on investments (ROI) next to West Virginia – doesn’t it make more economical sense to invest in our biggest state asset – our roads and bridges”?
If we do not make an investment in our infrastructure, we will never have economic development, which is so desperately needed in these trying economic times. Any Economic Benefit Analysis (EBA) will show you that investing in “transportation” produces business and job creation. Property values go up, helping our schools and sales tax revenues that bolster our communities.
It is amazing to me that in Oklahoma, we continue to throw money away to agencies that are not showing a return on the taxpayers’ money. They have to take money from transportation just to survive. As a Legislature, we have swept 135 million dollars away from ODOT in the last five out of seven years. Other agencies have “fought to the death” against any cuts and “pet projects” that they want funded.
Statutorily, the Legislature is required to spend $214 million to fund our roads and bridges. Yet, transportation only received $185 million last session – $71.5 million was taken out of the County Improvement to Roads and Bridges Fund (CIRB). Oklahomans pay over 1.2 billion dollars in road taxes and fees and that money does not get to where it should.
(Did you know that only 38 percent of the Motor Vehicle Taxes you pay actually go to “transportation?)
ODOT and the counties are making progress but we need folks to stop “picking their pockets.”
You may have missed it, but the Federal Highway Administration came out with these findings 2 months ago:
- 25 percent of Oklahoma bridges are still structurally deficient or functionally obsolete;
- Oklahoma drivers pay $425.00 in extra vehicle repair because of our roads;
- 70 percent of Oklahoma roads are in poor or mediocre condition;
- Two-lane roads are 56 percent more likely to cause accidents in our state.
If we continue to not adequately address our spending and budget issues, we will never fund those “core functions” of government that we should. Transportation is a core function. Good roads and bridges do more for our economic development than almost anything. Many people in this state, besides me, have been singing this same “tune” for years.
Isn’t it time we listen to the music?