Oklahoma’s road daddy, Neal McCaleb, says the time is right to fix the state’s roads and bridges, and he’s selling that message hard. As spokesman for Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads, he writes:
The estimated highway infrastructure replacement in the next eight years should be doubled and the rehabilitation of existing bridges should triple. Without new revenue, this is impossible.
He’s talking more fuel taxes here. And McCaleb should know something about Oklahoma transportation. Check out an excerpt from a May 2001 House resolution commending McCaleb for his service to Oklahoma.
McCaleb was selected as the state’s first Secretary of Transportation by Governor Henry Bellmon.
McCaleb also served in the Keating Administration, being the first in the history of state government to serve concurrently as Director of both the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Oklahoma Transportation Authority (OTA) as well as serving as Cabinet Secretary, justly earning the nickname, “King of the Road”.
For some 14 years McCaleb presided over Oklahoma’s highway infrastructure, leading us on probably the most expensive state road building binge in Oklahoma history. Let me take you back to 1998 and the King’s $3 billion vision.
“If you can spend your way into prosperity, we’re going to be doing it,” said Sen. Dave Herbert, D-Midwest City.
More than one-third of the $3 billion will be borrowed money — something elected officials are not expected to stress as they brag about highway building in their re-election campaigns.
McCaleb said it is difficult to quantify the impact of $3 billion in highway construction on the state economy in such a short period, but it “will be a bunch.”
“This is daunting, but I think it is doable,” he said when asked whether so many highway miles can be built so fast.
Out-of-state contractors soon flooded the state for the construction orgy.
Too bad McCaleb wasn’t thinking about maintaining roads and bridges six years ago instead of pushing the state into a perpetual hole by planning evermore infrastructure to be maintained.
I’m always especially suspicious of Republicans who push tax increases and deficits for “our own good”. It’s like someone getting in over their head mortgaging a 50,000 sq. ft. mansion and not budgeting for upkeep. And worse yet, not able to sell it. Contrary to Oklahoma’s Supreme Court, I consider this concept in opposition to the intent of the State Constitution.
McCaleb no stranger to mismanagement
You may have heard Pres. Bush named McCaleb Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in July of 2001. He resigned in November 2002 after being found in contempt of court for failing to reform the slick BIA trust system. It seems the Trust was screwing Native Americans all over the country, including some 53,000 Oklahomans who brought a lawsuit.
It accused the government of mismanaging the Indian trust, created in 1887 to make sure Indians were not swindled while they learned to manage their property. In 1932, an act of Congress made the trust perpetual.
Let’s not even talk about the idea of government taking over your assets because they think they can manage them better than you. And please excuse me if I don’t fawn over McCaleb’s rationality when it comes to financing state road maintenance; even if I do feel a fuel tax increase is in order. It’s just too bad it is orchestrated by politicians like McCaleb who have a long history of mismanagement already.
Did I mention that McCaleb is back in Oklahoma with financial interests in road development?