Oklahoma deserves better than this

While I am not a big fan of his, I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said – when describing hypocrisy . . .  “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

I think that statement captures what the Legislature has done with the budget this last year and specifically our commitment to improving our roads and bridges here in Oklahoma. Out of one side of their mouths, our politicians and business community want you to preach about “defending all existing road funding or diversion of monies to other sources” and then wants you as a lawmaker “to sing that message from the roof tops.”

But out of the other side of their mouths, they tacitly endorse capping the funding to county infrastructure, specifically roads and bridges along with the use of motor vehicle fees to fund a budget so that taxpayers can again pay for their “boondoggle pet projects” that aren’t core functions of government.

News flash – funding transportation is an enumerated power.

Case in point is the taking of $100,000,000.00 out of the CIRB fund (County Improvements to Roads & Bridges). For years, money was taken out of transportation and diverted to the general fund to pay for other non-essentials beside roads and bridges. That’s why we have such bad roads in the first place.  Finally in 2006, the Legislature made a commitment to the hard-working families and businesses here in Oklahoma that we would repair our crumbling infrastructure.

Now we are doing the same thing over again and taking some of that “five-year money” away from essential road projects and approving more bond debt for such things as “museums” in our budget.  As a member of the Transportation Committee, it defies reason and speaks volumes to our commitment that we promised to the people of Oklahoma. That’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t vote for the budget – along with the constant use of one-time money that doesn’t fix our continuing budget deficits (but that is for another discussion).

Folks, with almost  84,000 miles of roads to maintain and to repair and another 25 percent of our bridges ($1.2 billion dollars) that need to be replaced, plus all the county roads that need work, why would anyone even think of doing this?

We can’t afford a $10 million exit to our National Guard Armory in BA that has over 1,000 people there every month and a vital public safety purpose for deployment in state emergencies, while at the same time preventing us from cutting off 10 minutes of response time for police and fire thereby saving lives.

It defies logic. We have swept 100 million dollars out of Transportation over the last several years for what – more of these pet projects?

Common sense tells most people who are really listening that you can’t attend anything – whether it’s schools or art exhibits – unless you have good roads to travel on.  If anyone should understand this, it should be our business community.   Oklahoma has just gone through its worst damage by flooding to its roads and bridges in state history. Almost 30 some state and federal highways and bridges were closed at the end of last month and millions upon millions of dollars of repairs are looming.  Why would we continue to raid funds and use 70 percent of motor vehicle fees for non-transportation use?

Hypocrisy is defined “as saying one thing and doing another.” It certainly would apply to those who support and defend this type of behavior at the state and local level.

Don’t we deserve better? I think we do.