Sen. Patrick Anderson has been notified by the State Attorney General’s office that his fight to stop the giveaway of $25 million of taxpayer funds is headed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In February Anderson requested an AG’s opinion on the constitutionality of issuing bonds for a project that was different from the plan originally approved by the legislature in 2009. Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office called the senator Thursday to tell him the case would be presented to the high court.
“Three years ago the legislature approved $25 million dollars in bonds to be used as a match with federal funds to construct a series of low water dams along the Arkansas River,” said Anderson, R-Enid. “Promoters of the project claimed it would have a $2.8 billion economic and create 9,450 jobs. The project never happened and the bonds were not issued.”
However, three years later, an attempt is being made to have the bonds that were approved in 2009 issued for repairs to the Zink dam in Tulsa. The Zink dam is an existing dam in that the state does not own. Anderson explained the effort to have these bonds issued for this new purpose has resulted in a series of contradictory events:
On January 26, 2012, the Oklahoma Council on Bond Oversight voted unanimously that the Oklahoma legislature would have to approve the change in the use of the 2009 bonds.
On January 30, 2012, the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority met to review the Oklahoma Council on Bond Oversight’s decision and subsequently directed that the Council on Bond Oversight change its decision.
An Emergency meeting of the Council on Bond Oversight was held on February 9, 2012, where the Council voted to remove the requirement that the bond issue be sent back to the legislature to approve the change in the use of the funds. This was the first time in state history that the Council on Bond Oversight reconsidered and changed a prior decision of the Council.
Following the February 9, 2012 vote, Anderson requested an Attorney General’s Official Opinion as to the constitutionality of the actions that had been taken to have these bonds issued without additional legislative approval.
To date, the bonds have not been issued.
Anderson, an attorney, predicted the issuance of the bonds for this new purpose would be found unconstitutional on several grounds:
1. The parties that are seeking to have these bonds issued are attempting to change the use of the bonds funds from that which the legislature originally intended – that violates Article X, Section 16 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
2. There is no source of repayment for these bonds. Thus, the issuance of these bonds would create a debt of the state without a vote of the people – that violates Article X, Section 25.
3. Since the Zink dam is not owned by the state, the issuance of these bonds for repairs on this dam would result in making a $25 million gift of state funds – that violates Article X, Section 15.
“The proper way to address this matter would be to bring it before the legislature for consideration. Unfortunately, several former and current state leaders have attempted to circumvent the legislature and the state constitution in this process. Therefore, I applaud the decision of the Attorney General to take this matter directly to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” Anderson said. “Obtaining an official court decision against this practice is the best way to insure that no one attempts to do this again.”