The Oklahoma Senate has approved a Republican-led plan that
would double the investment for transportation projects during the next four
years. The new funding would be in addition to an extra $111.8 million
allocated for road and bridge repair during the 2005 legislative session.
Senators voted 42-0 to advance the bill – HB2940. It now
heads to a House and Senate conference committee to work out the final details
before sending it to Democratic Gov. Brad Henry’s desk.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials say more
than 3,000 miles of Oklahoma’s more than 12,000 miles of highway need to be
repaired or replaced. In addition, about 1,160 of the state’s more than 6,700
bridges are either deficient or obsolete.
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Liotta, R-Tulsa, the bill would
redirect all motor fuel taxes now sent to the state’s general revenue fund into
a new bridge fund. That would amount to an additional $7.7 million for ODOT, The
“The House plan doubles the amount that we invest in roads,
and it does so without raising taxes one penny,” Rep. Mark Liotta, R-Tulsa,
said in a written statement.
The GOP-led effort includes a provision to pay for repair of
county roads and bridges.
Currently, the state sends 15 percent of revenue generated
by motor vehicle registration fees to county governments. Liotta’s bill would
double the share for counties to 30 percent. That would amount to an extra $85
million to $100 million annually.
The effort isn’t the only legislation in Oklahoma this year
addressing money for transportation that has gained passage.
Henry signed a bill in March to help fix the worst bridges
on state highways and county roads throughout the state.
The new law, previously SB1288, allocates $125 million for
“With these emergency funds, we can attack the backlog of
bride repair projects that has plagued Oklahoma for decades,” Henry said in a
written statement. “Motorists in all four corners of the state will see
improvements to make their bridges and overpasses safer.”
ODOT will get $100 million to repair or replace the most
dilapidated bridges on the state highway system. Counties will get $25 million
to fix their worst bridges.
A couple of Democrat-led initiatives that addressed
transportation dollars, however, failed to gain passage.
One of those efforts sought to create the Oklahoma Safe
Roads Trust Fund and require that all motor fuel taxes be deposited into the
The full House declined to grant a hearing prior to an April
27 deadline on the proposal. It called for a statewide vote to amend the
Senate Joint Resolution 58, sponsored by Sen. Kenneth Corn,
D-Howe, previously won approval before the House Appropriations and Budget
Committee. The Senate unanimously approved it in March.
Corn’s effort called for the trust fund to get all of the
motor fuel taxes now sent to the state’s general revenue fund. That amounts to
$7.7 million, The Oklahoman reported.
The fund also would have prohibited money from being used
for anything other than construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. Oklahoma relies solely on fuel taxes to pay for road and bridge work.
One other failed effort sought to make an extra $10.6
million available for roads and bridges.
Sponsored by Sen. Daisy Lawler, D-Comanche, the bill would
have changed the state transportation fund from a certified fund to a revolving
Oklahoma law now restricts 95 percent of a certified fund to
Supporters said the restriction prohibits ODOT officials
from spending money for roads. By turning the fund into a revolving fund, the agency
could spend all road funding available on maintenance and repair.
The reclassification would have allowed a one-time increase
of $10.6 million for road and bridge work.
The bill – SB1029 – won approval in the House Appropriations
and Budget Committee but it did not receive a hearing on the House floor prior
to the April 27 deadline. The Senate passed it in March.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor