New Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon told The Oklahoman's editorial board last week that his constituents regularly urge him to make sure the state lives within its means. He and many of his fellow Republicans use such anecdotes to defend the House's opposition to bond issues.
But passing a bond issue isn't the same thing as spending money you don't have. The latter is what we see happening in Washington, and it's highly irresponsible. Taxpayers are outraged about the deficit spending, and should be. But using bond issues to build and maintain state infrastructure is an example of government acting responsibly.
Shannon, R-Lawton, says there is no appetite for bond issues within his caucus. That's been evident for several years. So Shannon is proposing an eight-year, pay-as-you-go plan to fund upkeep and repair. Some of these funds would come from selling state assets, but Shannon also hopes to carve out a chunk each year from the state's general revenue fund.
After getting repair and reconstruction under way through pay as you go, caucus members might begin to warm to the idea of issuing bonds. That's the hope, at least.
And perhaps it's the only way to get off high center on this issue, even if the approach is flawed. The best way is to approve a bond issue. Doing so would give the state the money now for badly needed projects — the Capitol, the medical examiner's office, the Jim Thorpe building, take your pick — and allow the state to pay it back at affordable rates.
Our sense is that most of Shannon's constituents and his recalcitrant caucus members took out mortgages to pay for their homes, or used loans that they could repay to buy their cars or to repair/renovate their homes. Bond issues are the state's best vehicle to do the same thing with its infrastructure.
Waiting several years before passing one might be more palatable, but it would be no less disappointing.