Last week, the House approved the issuance of new long-term debt to finance a dam project on the Arkansas River in the Tulsa area. This means that each year, more of your money will be added to the millions of tax payer dollars that are tied down to paying debt and debt interest.
You may remember that last year the Legislature approved a major debt package in the last few days of the legislative session. The Tulsa dam project was one of the issues in this bill. Since that time, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has held that the debt bill was unconstitutional because it "log-rolled" more than one issue into the bill.
I feel that the Court should have also held the bill unconstitutional because it did not allow the people to vote on the bond issuance, which I believe is probably required by our state Constitution in this instance.
In the case of the Tulsa dam project, it is especially egregious because this local project should not involve state dollars. I don't think taxpayers in Logan and Oklahoma Counties should be forced to pay for years on a project that is specific to the Tulsa area. If Tulsa taxpayers want a project in their area, they should pay local taxes for that project.
In fact, the voters in Tulsa were asked to vote on a similar project and they turned it down. So now, unlike some of the recent MAPS improvement projects in the Oklahoma City area which were been paid for with local tax dollars, this key Tulsa area improvement project will be paid for by all Oklahomans.
Adding more debt is especially unwise in a fiscal down year. This debt problem has hit especially close to home this year when the state government will be cutting agency budgets because of the downturn. Recently, agencies’ officials testified to legislative committees about where they would make cuts if the economic downturn forces them to cut their budgets by 5%. Those agencies burdened with long-term debt simply point to the fact that they cannot legally cut their bond payments. In fact, a 5% cut might be more like a 10% to 15% cut in discretionary revenue. In other words, as we have gone through time and more debt has been added to the state government, the ability to shrink government becomes inhibited.
I suppose voters might be able to find comfort in the fact that compared to the federal level counterparts, the long term debt incurrence at the state level is minuscule by comparison.
One of my favorite quotes is from ancient Roman times. "The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." In today's world, a great majority of the people have bought into the philosophy that the incurrence of unnecessary debt is no longer something that should be avoided at all costs. I very much disagree with this, and believe that as a society we will pay a heavy price due to the lack of fiscal discipline of our elected officials.
I remain committed to voting against all proposals that incur new debt.