Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Capitol Business: Road Backers Must Keep Up the Pressure

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Capitol Business: Road Backers Must Keep Up the Pressure

Article excerpt

Where to go from here is the first and uppermost question facing legislative leaders and Gov. Brad Henry in the wake of the massive rejection of State Question 723.

Soaring gasoline prices surely played a major role in the 87 percent to 13 percent defeat of the measure to raise gasoline and diesel fuel taxes by 5 cents and 8 cents per gallon respectively.

There were other factors.

The 2005 Legislature passed House Bill 1078, which ultimately should provide $170 million annually for repair, maintenance and construction of state roads and bridges.

Most voters believe road user funds are being diverted and the Legislature should stop the practice. Many question how money is being spent by the Department of Transportation.

Aside from the tax increase, the measure gave too much authority to bureaucrats without adequate oversight.

For all of its good intentions SQ 723 simply was the wrong approach.

But there are positives to come out of the effort. For one, the pending vote on it probably helped push the Legislature to enact the Republican-sponsored HB 1078.

An increased awareness of the problems facing Oklahoma's roads and bridges is another. After the election, support to develop a program to correct them was expressed by both sides.

The Legislature and governor were most often mentioned as sources for solving the roads and bridges problem.

Many voters agreed more should have been done by past legislatures and governors.

It is clear they want Republican and Democrat legislative leaders and the governor, without raising taxes, to lift the funding level for the state's highway system and give it a much higher priority.

Republicans unveiled an ambitious plan of action immediately after the election. It builds on and expands HB 1078, increasing from $170 million to $200 million annually in additional funding for state roads and bridges. It raises the percentage of revenue from motor vehicle license fees going to counties for roads from 15 percent to 30 percent. It calls for taking $100 million of one-time surplus revenue for emergency bridge repairs.

They also called for a needed review of how current highway funds are being spent. …

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