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Supreme Court makes right call on turnpike financing plan

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a plan to refinance state turnpikes and pay for several projects, including some that are critical to the Tulsa area.

Opponents to Gov. Mary Fallin’s “Driving Forward” initiative argued that the plan to cross-pledge revenues in a multi-turnpike package amounted to a violation of the state Constitution’s ban of logrolling, meaning the plan would combine unlike things into a single act in an attempt to mass together political support from various places.

The high court ruled that cross-pledging and multiple turnpike packages are legal. The package is about one thing: improving the state transportation system, the court said.

The court also pointed out that it has approved similar turnpike packages several times in the past, and specifically ruled in favor of a cross-pledged package some 50 years ago.

The court’s ruling is not only legally correct, but in the best interest of the state. The ability of the turnpike authority to use its profitable roads — especially the Turner Turnpike — to help pay for other needed projects creates jobs and economic opportunity. It gets done what needs to get done and does it in the right way.

The fact that highway users are paying for highways is absolutely appropriate. Turnpikes are financed with user fees, which are the best and fairest means of financing such government services. Appropriate use of user fees leaves general tax money available for projects where user fees are inappropriate or impractical, such as public schools and prisons.

Specifically, we’re pleased that the Driving Forward package is now on track.

The package includes a critical link in Tulsa’s outer loop, reconstruction of the first 20 miles of the Turner Turnpike and a rebuild of a troubled portion of the Muskogee Turnpike. All of the projects are needed for the local economy and couldn’t get done without the financing package.

The Supreme Court’s decision is appropriate and good for Oklahoma. It’s a plan that will truly drive Oklahoma forward.

To read the original article from the Tulsa World, please click HERE.

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