Zink Lake dam bonds contested by legislator
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2012
8/23/12 at 3:53 AM
A state senator is asking an Oklahoma County court to block the sale of $25 million in state bonds to finance improvements to Tulsa's Zink Lake dam.
"We have developed a spending problem at the state Capitol and as a result we have abandoned and ignored the requirements of our constitution," said Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid. "We must return to the core principles of our constitution. Otherwise, we will be mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.
"Hopefully, the declaratory judgment lawsuit that I have filed today will be the beginning of a renewed effort by state leaders to start following the constitution, rather than attempting to circumvent it."
Proposed state financing for a series of low-water dams along the Arkansas River has a lengthy, complex history involving multiple legislative bills, suits before the Oklahoma Supreme Court and a variety of plans for matching federal and local money.
The most recent scenario was passed by the Legislature in 2009, calling for $25 million in state bonds to finance improvements to the Zink Lake dam and construction of dams in Sand Springs and Jenks.
Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority started plans to move ahead with the bond sale but with all the money dedicated to the Zink Lake dam. Project promoters have said the other dams would be financed with $50 million in authorized federal funding when it comes available and local money.
But in his suit, Anderson argues that the change in how the money is to be used is so significant that it violates the legislative intent of the 2009 bill.
"The project that the Legislature voted to support never materialized," Anderson said. "Despite that fact, there is now a push to have those 2009 bonds issued for a different purpose. In short, those who are now advocating for the issuance of the bonds are asking the taxpayers of Oklahoma to make a $25 million gift so that aesthetic improvements can be made to a city park. That was not the Legislature's intent when it passed this legislation in 2009."
Anderson's suit also argues that the Zink dam finance plan violates the state constitution because the money would be spent on an asset that the state does not own.
"The use of state bond funds for this purpose violates multiple provisions of our state's constitution," Anderson said. "Using the funds to raise the level of the Zink dam by 3 feet was not the Legislature's original intent; the Zink dam is not a state asset; and, there is no source of repayment for these bonds if they are issued. This is simply an attempt to get the state to pay someone else's bill."
In July, Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced he would be taking similar questions about the dam project's funding to the Oklahoma Supreme Court when it reconvenes this fall. That essentially put the Capitol Improvement Authority's plan to sell the bond on hold pending the high court's ruling.
Pruitt's action was spawned by a request from Anderson to determine the bond sale plan's constitutionality.
Only legal and constitutional questions are at issue in the attorney general's case, Anderson said Wednesday.
While either effort could result in the bond package being declared unconstitutional, Anderson said the two efforts take different legal tacks and would require different evidence.
Original Print Headline: Lawmaker asks court to block bonds for dam
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Proposed improvements to the Zink Lake dam on the Arkansas River in Tulsa are the target of a state senator from Enid who says the scope of the project and its funding have been changed from what the Legislature approved in 2009. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World file
Sen. Patrick Anderson: "Those who are now advocating for the issuance of the bonds are asking the taxpayers of Oklahoma to make a $25 million gift so that aesthetic improvements can be made to a city park. That was not the Legislature's intent," the Enid Republican said