A proposed amendment to the state constitution would put critical funding for Oklahoma roads at risk if it were to pass, transportation advocates said Monday. Members of the Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation road funding coalition voiced their opposition to State Question 744, which would require public education to be funded on par with the regional average. The question would take up to $850 million from other agencies to fund public education. Neal McCaleb, president of the coalition, called the state question a threat to the state’s transportation system that has gone "chronically under-funded” until the past few years. "All of us are interested in education,” McCaleb said. "But State Question 744 is the wrong thing at the wrong time when the Legislature is so strapped.” The coalition said it would work against the education ballot measure. Legislative leaders said funding transportation and education should not be competing priorities. "It’s sad that they view this as a threat to what they’re trying to do. This is a core function of government. What does that say about their priorities?” Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said of the proponents of SQ 744. "We need to continue to move down the road and not go backwards on the commitments that we’ve made and the progress that we’ve made.”Comments
Roads get praiseTransportation funding has increased over the past few years and the state is slowly seeing the condition of its roads improve, lawmakers said. "The days of needing duct tape and bailing wire to keep our roads and bridges in suboptimal order are over,” said Speaker of the House Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "Maintaining this funding will add long-term value to the state.” State Transportation Director Gary Ridley praised Democrat Gov. Brad Henry and the Legislature for making road funding a priority. Ridley said in the past four years the Transportation Department has replaced or rehabilitated more than 400 bridges. "We probably haven’t had that much impact on the system since we worked on the interstates in the ’70s,” Ridley said. Ridley said a drop in state or federal transportation dollars could impact the eight-year work plan and infrastructure improvements across the state.