Road funding OK'd in Oklahoma without tax increase

| Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gov. Brad Henry has signed a transportation funding plan intended to pump $170 million more each year into Oklahoma’s road and bridgework without raising taxes.

The new law, previously HB1078, adds $17.5 million next year for the state Transportation Department, The Oklahoman reported. Road and bridge maintenance will receive $15 million and $500,000 will go toward public transit.

State transportation officials have said Oklahoma has an $8.4 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.

The measure overwhelmingly passed the state House and Senate shortly before lawmakers wrapped up their work for the year late last month. Henry put pen to paper on the new funding formula earlier this month. It takes effect July 1.

The plan includes a “lockbox” provision intended to keep future legislatures from diverting the new money from roads and bridges.

Contributions will gradually increase by either $17 million or $35 million each year during the next decade to a sustained level of $170 million annually, the newspaper reported. Funds are generated from surplus revenue in state reserves.

Until now, the highway agency received about $200 million annually from state fuel taxes for road and bridgework.

“We have made an historic investment in road and bridge maintenance in our state,” Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, said in a written statement.

Corn said drivers “will begin seeing the results of this bill before the end of the year. In the coming decade, hundreds of bridges will be replaced and repaired while thousands of miles of highways will be resurfaced.”

More than 3,000 miles of the state’s more than 12,000 miles of highway need to be repaired or replaced. In addition, about 1,600 of the state’s more than 6,700 bridges are either deficient or obsolete.

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