Gov. Mary Fallin says state leaders need to “get some guts” and come up with a way to repair the Capitol building. Actually, a little fiscal common sense will do.
The answer to fixing the structure is simple: The Legislature should pass a bond issue, just as it's done any number of times through the years to pay for the repair and upkeep of state infrastructure.
There was a time when “bond” wasn't considered a four-letter word at the Capitol. But now conservatives, particularly those in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, have come to equate additional bonded indebtedness with the sort of out-of-control spending on display in Washington, D.C. In their view, all debt is bad, period. As we've said repeatedly in endorsing a bond issue to repair the Capitol and build a new medical examiner's office, these men and women apparently don't carry a mortgage.
Bonds allow states to borrow money at affordable rates — those rates are particularly low today — and thus are a responsible use of taxpayer money. Rejecting a bond issue on strictly ideological grounds is the definition of irresponsible. The state's bonded indebtedness is more than manageable. Indeed, rating agencies remind state officials every year that Oklahoma could take on additional debt.
During a tour of the Capitol on Thursday, Fallin gave reporters a copy of an Oklahoman story that highlighted the building's disrepair. The story was 20 years old!
Some legislators prefer a pay-as-you-go plan. That sounds good until revenues dip and repairs are put on hold for a year or two. The best idea is a bond issue. Incoming House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said doing nothing “is not an option.” He's right, and he should make it his work to sell the merits of a bond issue to his reluctant caucus.
A bond issue would be an affordable and responsible way to fix a problem that's lingered far too long.