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  1. #1
    Patrick Guest

    Default Gas Tax increase...shocking isn't it?

    Check this out. This is quite shocking.

    ------------------
    "Tulsa World (Oklahoma)
    June 19, 2005 Sunday
    Final Home Edition

    SECTION: News; Oklahoma; Government; Pg. A1

    HEADLINE: Road builders assist fuel tax hike campaign
    BYLINE: ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Projects Editor

    The group promoting the increase has received almost all of its funding from
    industry figures. Road and bridge contractors and their trade associations
    have given nearly $800,000 to a group supporting an increase in the state fuel
    tax, records show.

    The group, Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads, has raised $850,000 since
    Sept. 1, 2004, mostly from companies or associations that build roads and
    bridges, according to state Ethics Commission records. The Association of
    Oklahoma General Contractors gave about half of the total: $421,000.

    Five of the top contributors to the campaign have received a total of more
    than $1 billion in road and bridge contracts from the Oklahoma Department of
    Transportation in the past 10 years, records show.

    Krystal Derwenski, a spokeswoman for the group, said it wasn't surprising
    that those in the industry would donate to the group. She said the group
    hasn't even had its first official fundraiser.
    "It's the same situation as doctors supporting health-care initiatives and
    teachers lining up behind education funding," she said.

    Although supporters of the fuel tax measure, State Question 723, have
    campaigned on safety issues, road contractors also stand to benefit financially
    from increased spending on transportation.

    Derwenski said road and bridge contractors "see firsthand what the condition
    is."
    "It's fair to say that there are financial incentives for them to support
    themselves, but most of these guys have to do business out of state."

    The campaign to raise the state's fuel tax received $60,000 from companies
    outside Oklahoma, including nearly $30,000 from Texas companies, records
    show.

    State Question 723 will be on the ballot Sept. 13. It would gradually
    increase the gasoline tax by 5 cents and the diesel tax by 8 cents, bringing both
    to 22 cents per gallon within four years. The increase would generate an
    estimated $150 million per year in constitutionally protected funding to help
    maintain and repair Oklahoma roads and bridges.

    Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads estimates that the tax would cost
    drivers an extra $2.50 per month by 2008. That figure is based on drivers
    travelling 12,000 miles per year in a vehicle that averages 20 miles per gallon.

    The group's officers are listed as Neal McCaleb, a former state
    transportation secretary and a registered Republican; and Kenneth K. Wert, a
    registered
    Democrat who is a corporate officer in Haskell Lemon Construction Co. and a
    board member of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors.

    The group's secretary is Sheila Brown, an employee of the Association of
    Oklahoma General Contractors, records show.
    Two House Republican leaders have criticized the group's use of mock
    roadside memorials to promote the fuel tax increase. Reps. Mark Liotta of Tulsa and
    Thad Balkman of Norman called the use of white crosses by the group a
    publicity stunt.
    A news release by the two Republican lawmakers states that if the increase
    is passed, Oklahomans would pay 40.4 cents in state and federal taxes on every
    gallon, one of the highest fuel tax rates in the region.

    State Republican Chairman Gary Jones said increasing the fuel tax "is going
    to be an extremely hard sell."

    "Personally, I believe there is a lot of inefficiencies in the Department of
    Transportation and I believe those inefficiencies ought to be dealt with,"
    he said.
    Jones called a road-funding bill recently passed by the Legislature "a more
    prudent way of handling it."

    The bill, signed this month by Gov. Brad Henry, provides at least $17.5
    million per year for transportation out of growth revenue, increasing to $35
    million in years when state revenues grow by at least 3 percent.

    Derwenski said the Oklahoma Department of Transportation "is still operating
    with the same maintenance budget it had in 1985." She said the bill passed
    this year would mainly pay for a $70 million bond payment that the Legislature
    has repeatedly promised but failed to fund.
    "The net is a $15 million increase for maintenance. That will fix maybe five
    or six bridges, and we have 1,100 bridges in the state today that need to be
    replaced," she said.

    Ziva Branstetter 581-8378
    ziva.branstetter@tulsaworld.com

    Tax group's top givers listed The following is a list of contributors who
    have given at least $10,000 to support passage of a state question increasing
    the fuel tax to fund road and bridge improvements.

    The list also includes the total worth of road and bridge contracts that the
    contributors have received from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation in
    the past decade, if any.
    Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads has raised more than $850,000 since
    September 2004, records show. Contribution information comes from Oklahoma
    Ethics Commission records for Sept. 1, 2004 through May 31, 2005.
    Association of Oklahoma General Contractors: $421,947
    Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce: $50,000
    Oklahoma Aggregates Association: $36,000
    Sewell Brothers Inc. of Cordell: $10,000. Road and bridge contracts:
    $209,542,202.
    Oklahoma Asphalt Pavement Association: $10,000
    The Chickasaw Nation: $10,000
    Muskogee Bridge Co. of Muskogee: $10,000. Road and bridge contracts:
    $361,929,714.
    Allen Contracting Inc. of Oklahoma City: $10,000
    Johnston Enterprises of Enid: $10,000
    TTK Construction Co. of Edmond: $10,000. Road and bridge contracts:
    $14,904,110.
    Cummins Construction Co. of Enid: $10,000. Road and bridge contracts:
    $306,790,761.
    Warren CAT of Midland, Texas: $10,000
    Cornell Construction Co. of Clinton: $10,000. Road and bridge contracts:
    $149,034,738.
    Coreslab Structures Inc. of Broken Arrow: $10,000
    LOAD-DATE: June 20, 2005 "

  2. #2
    Patrick Guest

    Default Re: Gas Tax increase...shocking isn't it?

    Here's an interesting email I received from a dear friend:

    "I've been working in this field for over 15 years now. When I first got
    involved, I used to pass the seemingly insane stuff I'd regularly find by a
    friend who had been city manager of a couple of different Oklahoma towns. Finally, he just smiled and said, "I know what you've found looks really bad.
    However, what you're going to discover is that no matter how bad you think
    things are in Oklahoma government, no matter how bad you may find them to be on any given day, they're actually WAY worse."

    That was years ago now, and each day that I live and work in this business,
    the truer I find what my friend told me to be. Government at all levels in
    this state is profoundly corrupt.

    Any integrity in our system depends on the informed scrutiny and daily
    involvement of the people. Most people are not only unwilling to do what it takes
    to keep the system honest -- but it really BUGS them if someone shows up and
    insists that they take up their responsibilities.

    Justice Robert H. Jackson said it over 50 years ago -- and it is still
    perhaps the most trenchant statement I've ever seen about the job of citizenship in America: "It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error."

    As you can plainly see from the tenor of the Tulsa World report -- the press
    is complicit with the corruption of the big shots. Despite the obvious fact
    that OSBR IS the road builders, the reporter continues to talk about "the
    organization promoting fuel tax increases" as though it were somehow "another
    group of people."

    I've often had "regular folks" get really angry with me because I insisted
    that their representative or a snake like Neal McCaleb was corrupt and self
    serving. Of course, they didn't even KNOW the individual in question except
    through his press releases and propaganda -- or the something written about him by some hack reporter in the goofy Oklahoma press.

    So it goes."

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