A Senate budget leader is standing by a recent Senate analysis on transportation spending, saying a new study cited by a Keating appointee today is suspect because it was compiled by an organization that represents contractors who make a profit off of road construction.
"Our data came from the U.S. Census Bureau, theirs came from people who make money off of road construction," said Senator Kelly Haney, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who requested the study.
"Based on the source, I don't think the TRIP study is worth the paper it's printed on."
At a meeting of the ODOT commission today, panel chairman Herschal Crow cited a road study compiled by The Road Information Program or TRIP. TRIP is a Washington, D.C., based organization that represents manufacturers and contractors in the road and highway construction field.
The findings of the TRIP "study" were in direct conflict with a recent Senate analysis that found Oklahoma spent more money on roads and highways than most states, both on a per capita and percentage of total budget basis. The Senate analysis used the most current Census data as compiled by Congressional Quarterly in the 1996 State Fact Finder.
"Asking a road building organization to do an objective study of your transportation budget is like asking a private prison operator to conduct a study of your corrections system. There's a huge credibility problem."
"The fact that they had to go to a lobbying organization with a vested interest in road construction tells me they couldn't find the numbers they wanted from a credible source," said Senator Haney.
In recent weeks, Governor Keating has attempted to show that Oklahoma is lagging in road expenditures so he can divert money from education to the transportation budget.
"Governor Keating will apparently do anything he can to cut education, even if it means concocting a phony road study to do it. The performance at the ODOT meeting is just more evidence of his hostility toward the public schools," said Senator Haney.
At the ODOT meeting today, Crow, an appointee of Governor Keating, said that Oklahoma needs to spend $6 billion more on roads in the next 18 years.
"I would love to spend $6 billion on roads, but for those of us who operate in the real world of limited resources and fiscal responsibility, it's impossible unless you raise taxes or gut education," said Senator Haney.
"I know Governor Keating has advocated cutting education and giving the money to transportation, but I don't think you can build an infrastructure on the backs of school children."
"If Governor Keating wants to increase road spending by $6 billion as he says he does, he will either have to raise taxes or cut education. I don't favor either alternative."
The Senate budget leader pointed out that transportation received a record budget increase this year, some $30 million in new money for roads and highways, at the same time the U.S. Congress cut Oklahoma federal road funds by $15 million.
"We were increasing transportation funding while Newt Gingrich and Governor Keating's other friends in the Republican Congress were cutting Oklahoma's road funding. That's where the Governor should focus his efforts."
"Oklahoma needs to spend more money on roads and highways, but we also have to keep the big budget picture in perspective. If Governor Keating wants to raise taxes or cut education, he should just say so instead of enlisting his appointees to wage a misinformation campaign on his behalf."
At today's meeting, Crow also asserted that it was "irrelevant" to make a per capita comparison of road spending. Senator Haney disagrees.
"I don't think it's irrelevant to try and determine what each taxpayer is contributing to our road and highway system. Apparently, Governor Keating wants taxpayers to contribute more."
Senate Transportation Study Highlights:
Oklahoma Highway Spending in Perspective