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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Federal funds never were approved, and the project stalled. In January, plans were announced to use the $25 million bond issue to raise the level of Zink Dam in Tulsa by 3 feet so that a city park could be developed for residential purposes.

Anderson said the new use is not what the Legislature originally intended.

The state constitution forbids using state money for a purpose other than that intended by the Legislature, he said in his argument before the Supreme Court. It also prohibits the state from making gifts and forbids creating a debt without a vote of the people.

Assistant Attorney General David Kinney, representing the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority, which would issue the bonds, argued the project would serve a valid public purpose. He said the project addressed safety and tourism issues as well as sparking economic development in the area.

Justices during the Nov. 8 hearing said they were concerned the purpose for the bond issue had changed. Kauger said then she was concerned the project was limited to benefit the Tulsa area.

Anderson said the Oklahoma Council of Bond Oversight, which approved the original bond issue, asked this year that the Legislature again consider the proposal before bonds are sold because of changes made to the project. He said the council eventually reversed itself and recommended approval.

The Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority, which handles bond issues for the state, asked the Supreme Court earlier this year to review the plan before seeking to sell bonds.