Editorial: Republican leaders will borrow $125,000,000.00 for the Capitol

You can’t tax your way to prosperity and you can’t borrow your way to prosperity.

The Republican-run Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin don’t understand that concept.

In 2014, the Legislature passed a $125,000,000.00 bond issue to restore the aging State Capitol building after decades of almost no maintenance when the Democrats controlled the state for almost a hundred years.

The GOP leaders had almost a half billion in the Rainy Day fund but they chose to borrow the money through bonds when oil was more than $100 a barrel and the state coffers were filled.

But the company that won the bid to do the restoration came back with a revised estimate of more than $300,000,000.00.

So, instead of making do with the original funding in light of a $1.3 billion state budget shortfall, the Republican leadership pushed through another $125,000,000.00 bond issue to fix the Capitol. That is on top of the $200,000,000.00 bond package to cover the budget shortfall.

In the last three sessions, Republicans who ran for office as “fiscal conservatives” have borrowed nearly $300,000,000.00 for remodeling their offices in the Capitol and building a pop museum in Tulsa (plus funding a money pit museum in Oklahoma City).

Here are the facts. You have to maintain buildings. Property deteriorates. Prudent businesses build in a maintenance budget every year so the problems don’t become overwhelming.

The state hasn’t done this. It’s the same thing the City of Tulsa did when it didn’t maintain the old City Hall.

What the Republican leaders and the legislators who voted for these new bonds have done is to pass the cost of maintenance down to future budgets.

It’s called a “borrow-and-spend” and later “pay the piper.”

The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin also approved $200,000,000.00 in new bonds for “roads.” Again, you are not balancing the budget when you borrow money.

The underlying problem is the rush to grow state government. Government should be small and efficient, not bloated and saddled with debt.

Oklahoma is obligated by law to balance the state budget. But borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars with bonds violates that principle, if not state law.

Not all Republicans signed on to this fiasco but the way the budgeting process is set up, fiscal conservatives get only an up or down vote in the last couple of days of the session. It’s either vote yes or go into the summer in a special session. No one wants that.

Instead, they would rather saddle our children and grandchildren with more debt.