What happens to ME office, Capitol after bond issues go nowhere?

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: June 13, 2012

SO, what happens now?

What happens to the state medical examiner's office, housed in a substandard building in northeast Oklahoma City, not far from the Capitol. What happens to the Capitol itself, which is in dire need of repair and has been for years? What happens to the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, which stands half-completed along the Oklahoma River on the edge of downtown?

The Republican-controlled Legislature has made it clear it wants no part of approving bond issues to pay for these projects, or really any others — the Department of Veterans Affairs has long needed a new building, the state has more than $100 million worth of endowed chairs it needs to match, the list goes on.

The chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee said at the start of the 2012 session that he had about $1 billion worth of potential bond issue projects. Funding them all wasn't possible, of course, so the Legislature chose to fund none of them, saying there was no appetite among conservatives for increasing the state's bond indebtedness.

Was that opposition especially acute during an election year? Probably. But there's no reason to expect anything will be different in 2013. Republicans enjoy large majorities in the House and Senate, and that won't change with November's elections. Some Republican incumbents could lose, but they're as likely to fall to even more conservative Republicans than they are to Democratic challengers.

In the leadership posts, Sen. Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, returns as president pro tem of a body that hasn't been as averse to bond issues and this year OK'd spending $20 million on a pop culture museum in Tulsa. The House, which didn't hear the latter bill, will be led next year by Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who as speaker is likely to be more conservative than term-limited Rep. Kris Steele. Steele this year was among a small group who voted for a $200 million bond issue to repair the Capitol (Shannon voted against).

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