State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said recently he voted in favor of a bill that would affect the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) fund with "great reservation."
Bennett said, "My county commissioners did not support taking any money from the CIRB fund, but after months of negotiations between the Senate, House and governor this is the agreement we had before us. The CIRB funds are very important for the districts across the state of Oklahoma, especially in rural districts. I voted yes because the Oklahoma Legislature is constitutionally bound to balance the budget. I also voted yes because we were able to protect the five-year plan for the county roads and bridges. This bill will not delay any projects."
Bennett said that it was not long ago that there was no money in the CIRB fund.
"The Democratic-controlled House and Senate never gave money for these projects." Bennett said. "It was once the Republicans took control that we allocated money for the roads and bridges across the state and for the counties. There is currently approximately $230 million dollars in the CIRB Fund, $37 million was taken out of the FY2015 fund, then an additional $13 million was taken out of CIRB for a total of approximately $50 million. FY2016 $21 million was taken out of CIRB for a total of approximately $70 million. Even though this money was taken out of CIRB there is still approximately $230 million in CIRB and an additional $120 million will be added to CIRB for a total of $450 million dollars.
"Every fiscal year there will be an annual deposit into CIRB which will be capped at $120 million," Bennett continued. "There will be enough money to fund the five-year plan for fixing county roads and bridges. It was not an optimal plan but it was necessary to balance the entire state budget. Sometimes leaders have to make unpopular decisions. This is one of those instances where I had to make the right decision to ensure we balance the budget. I support programs that repair and build up our infrastructure and I did all I could to protect the five-year plan for future improvements in our counties."
The legislation was approved and now awaits consideration by the Oklahoma Senate.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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