Bond proposal for Tulsa dam project is ruled unconstitutional

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that a $25 million bond issue to pay for repairs to a dam owned by the city of Tulsa would be nothing more than a gift to the city and surrounding area and would violate the state constitution.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: November 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm •  Published: November 21, 2012
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A proposed $25 million state bond issue to pay for repairs to a dam owned by the city of Tulsa is unconstitutional, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The high court voted 9-0 to deny permission for the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue the bonds.

Supporters argued before the Supreme Court earlier this month that the bond issue would provide the state with economic benefits as well as help the state culturally and ecologically.

“In reality, the bonds appear to be nothing more than a gift to the city of Tulsa and surrounding communities from the state,” Justice Yvonne Kauger wrote.

“This type of gift is precisely what is prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution.

“Accordingly, the proposed bonds are unconstitutional,” she wrote.

Kauger said the state's involvement in the project “exists only to lend its credit to and make a donation for the benefit of the municipality.”

Attorneys supporting the project argued earlier this month that the project serves a public purpose for the state, which would allow legislators to authorize bond issues and appropriate money to make the debt payments.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, filed a lawsuit earlier this year to stop the bond issue.

“I appreciate the court's prompt attention to this matter, and I certainly agree with the court's conclusion that the issuance of these bonds would violate the constitution of the state of Oklahoma,” Anderson said Tuesday. “In the future, I would hope that policymakers will pay closer attention to the state constitution.”

Lawmakers authorized the bond issue in 2009, with the understanding the money would be matched with a $50 million federal grant to build a series of low-water dams along the Arkansas River.

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