Transportation, it seems, is a victim of efficiency in
Why is Oklahoma's transportation system so efficient? Because
money we pay to the federal government for transportation
projects goes to other states, which apparently need more help
than we do because their systems are not as efficient.
Every year Oklahoma motorists send millions of dollars to the
federal government and get back only a minuscule amount. Our
highway system, which most of us decry but probably wouldn't
trade for any other, is one of the few Oklahoma transportation
segments that gets back even close to its share of federal
dollars. For the past two years, the Oklahoma Department of
Transportation has received about 90 percent of the motor fuel
taxes that Oklahomans send to the Federal Highway
Other segments of state transportation, though, are not so
fortunate. Public transportation systems and the aeronautics
system are two which are definitely in the donor category.
Yet, needed projects in Oklahoma go lacking because there is
not enough money to fund them.
That's a bunch of hogwash, says Stephen F. Lalli, executive
director of the Oklahoma Transit Association.
Oklahoma motorists pay $28 million a year to fund public
transportation projects in other states, so there should be
enough money in federal coffers to help needed projects here, he
"When people say the funds are not there, they are just not
informed," he said. "Every time a motorist in Oklahoma fills up
the car's gas tank, about 30 cents of the bill goes to the
Federal Transit Authority (FTA). Of this, we get back about two
"That means we are an extreme donor state in this regard.
We're a donor state in highway funding and aviation taxes, too,
but not to as great an extent as we are for transit funds."
Oklahoma annually sends $30 million to Washington, D.C., to
fund public transportation projects. This results in a return of
6.6 percent of the transit funds Oklahoma sends to the federal
government, Lalli said.
"If we're not getting our money back, then the funds are going
to other states to fund those public transit projects," Lalli
said. "Why can't we get enough money back to fund ours? There's
no answer that the money isn't there. It is. The only question is
how do we get our share?"
To this end, Lalli is trying to get his association members
and elected municipal, county and state officials to join his
crusade to set a floor of return for donor state taxes.
"I know and everybody else knows, that we're not going to get
back all the money we send in," he said. "So we should have a
floor, a minimum amount of money that we get back from the
transit fund to help pay for our projects.
"Transit systems are needed as much in Oklahoma City, Tulsa
and other communities of the state as they are in New York or
California. So why can't we get back our money to spend in
Oklahoma instead of sending it all to New York or California?
"We should get a minimum amount from the FTA every year and
the remainder of our motor fuel taxes should go to the Oklahoma
Department of Transportation to pay for roads, streets and
Lalli also is urging private citizens to lobby their elected
officials to get behind the project.
One of the problems in the past is that no governor, no major
city mayor and no member of Congress from Oklahoma has stood up
and demanded a more equitable return on our taxes, Lalli said. …