HAVING determined that the state owns in the neighborhood of 9,000 buildings, Oklahoma policymakers are trying to get a handle on their condition and potential value. Then what?
State Rep. T.W. Shannon, who headed an interim legislative study to review the effects of his legislation requiring a review of state assets, would like to see proceeds from the sale of state properties be used for the upkeep of other state buildings. A prime example is the state Capitol, which is waiting on about $130 million worth of repairs.
In discussing this issue recently, Shannon, R-Lawton, made the point that revenue generated by sales “doesn't need to be used in the regular budget.” Seconding that motion is state Treasurer Ken Miller, a fan of reforms that result in better use of state revenue and resources. In his most recent “Oklahoma Economic Report,” Miller said many states don't have a target in mind when they sell assets, and the money can wind up in the state's general revenue fund to be re-appropriated to the agency that held the property.
Oklahoma lawmakers “will have to stand firm against agency pleas to fund ongoing operations with this one-time money,” Miller said.
Like Shannon, Miller would like to see proceeds go toward deferred maintenance of state buildings, with any one-time revenue exceeding those maintenance needs going toward paying down state debt. In addition, he proposes a moratorium on state-funded construction until there's a commitment to take care of existing facilities.
But first the state needs to figure out exactly how much it may have available to sell, a significant challenge. Records in the spring placed the number of state-owned buildings at about 4,900, but it ballooned to the 9,000 range by summertime after the Central Services Department did more digging.
In 2011? Better late than never.