One of the major issues facing the state in its second century is a crumbling infrastructure. National studies rank Oklahoma's roads and bridges among America's worst. But the governor has a plan to repair the state's road to the future.
As News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains, a grassroots coalition says funding roads is an issue of trust.
Governor Brad Henry told lawmakers on Monday about all of the accomplishments. Then spoke about solving what many consider a long-term failure. "Our road to progress initiative includes a 100-million dollar emergency infusion, to repair Oklahomaâ€™s most dangerous bridges." Henry applauded the legislature for its commitment to invest $2-billion in roads and bridges over the next ten years and proposed more change. "Oklahomans also deserve the assurance that the taxes they pay at the gas pump will be earmarked for their roads and bridges. Let's let Oklahomans vote on a constitutional lock box to be sure that gas taxes will be used solely for transportation purposes."
Transportation proponents say protecting gasoline tax revenue is just a beginning. The state also collects hundreds-of-millions in vehicle fees. 45 percent of it goes to the general fund; only 1 percent goes toward state roads and bridges. Imagine owning a home, and doing the bare minimum to take care of it. Never painted it, didn't fix the roof when it leaked. Eventually it would be so dilapidated you'd move out, and nobody else would move in.
One grassroots coalition says that's what's happening in Oklahoma. "We've had decades of stealing from our road funds and putting it into everything under the sun." Spirit Bank president Kell Kelly helped found Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation, or TRUST, to encourage legislators to make transportation a priority.
"Governor Henry's proposal is a fine one and I'm pleased that he agrees with us to make that type of proposal. Like I said, I think the people have spoken and they speak everyday by saying they want better roads and bridges, but they want them with the money that's now available." A billion dollars a year and TRUST members say it's time legislators put that money back into Oklahoma's roads and bridges.
TRUST members don't want to touch the 36 percent portion of vehicle fees that go toward education. They say a majority of diverted funds, should go back to roads and bridges.