Legislators seek more transportation funding

Friday, March 7th 2008, 7:20 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

State legislators are pushing for funds to improve roads and bridges, but some educators say it could mean less money for schools.

The debate is about House Bill 3342 which would ensure road taxes and fees fund only transportation needs and not go into the state's general revenue fund.

Right now a percentage of motor vehicle fees goes to the state's general fund so it's up for grabs for any state agency, including education.

"We've all just done without transportation funds for so long," said Gayle Ward with the Oklahoma Association of County Commissioners

Education Lobbyist Joel Robison said the bill would take away funding for schools that comes from the state's general fund.

"We think schools could lose between $60-70 million a year," he said.

The bill's author said it's about safety and not about taking away money from education. 

"It's important that we begin fixing Oklahoma's infrastructure," said Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Oklahoma City). "It's been neglected over 20 years and quite frankly we're trying to avoid what happened in Minnesota."

If approved, 5 percent of the motor vehicle fees would be taken out each during the next six years and put into the transportation fund.

"By phasing it in we can be sure we're not cutting the education budget," he said. "People shouldn't have to choose if they want good schools or roads. They should have both."