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Bill To Aid Military Communities Held Up

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A bill to help communities near Oklahoma's five military bases to finance infrastructure needs remains in a joint conference committee as the Oklahoma Legislature nears a deadline to adjourn.

State bases are expecting an influx of military and civilian personnel from other military installations that are being closed as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission review.

Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, said it is critical that a financing bill pass to help his city and other communities pay for school, street, water and wastewater projects.

Lawton, adjacent to Fort Sill, is expected to see an influx of between 11,000 and 15,000 people, counting military and civilian personnel and an estimated 4,000 new public school students.

Bass said the bill was held up in committee this week because House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, wanted to study it further.

Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for Cargill, said Friday the speaker is committed to passage of the legislation.

"He feels it is a vital and important matter not only for our military communities but our entire state. He expects to see it passed by the end of the session."

Bass said the legislation needs to get out of committee early next week so it can be approved by the 5 p.m. May 25 deadline for lawmakers to finish their work.

The measure bill would allow state aid for school districts and cities near military installations for bond issues totaling up to $100 million statewide.

The state would pay the interest on the loans for the first five years of the bond issue. The state's share of interest costs would be capped at $25 million.

The most interest the state would be obligated to pay in any year would be $5 million, "but that is not expected to happen," said Don Davis, administrator of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Commission.

He said the concept of private-state bonding authority for infrastructure improvements around military bases is a popular one for states that are experiencing economic growth.

"It's a unique situation in Oklahoma public finance because there simply is no mechanism for the state to assist with capital and infrastructure needs at the local level. We're really plowing new ground here," Davis said.
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