The Edmond Sun

March 4, 2013

Bond debt not an unpardonable sin

Randel Shadid
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — To the Editor:

Is Oklahoma bond indebtedness for Oklahoma infrastructure an unpardonable sin? No! Rep. Jason Murphey wrote a good op ed dealing with what he bemoans as oppressive state bond debt. He calculates each Oklahoman owes $649 in state debt. He and the rest of the ultra-fiscal conservatives can’t bring themselves to support bonds to pay for the state Capitol repairs, building a medical examiner’s office or other legitimate capital expenditures. So using his logic I decided to apply that thinking to my personal and business life.

The far right loves to say government should be run like a business. So in my business 20 years ago I needed an office building. My business partner and I bought and renovated a building for around $400,000. Should we have waited and saved for 15 or 20 years until we could pay cash? Had we waited we would have been paying rent to a landlord instead of accumulating money to build our building. We decided it was better to borrow, build and occupy our own building from 1993 to the present. And now we owe nothing on our building, having occupied it in a well-maintained condition for 20 years. Oh yes, had we waited 15 or 20 years to pay cash for the building it would cost us closer to $650,000 instead of the $400,000  we paid, plus interest. Pay me now or pay me later.

And then I thought of the right wings’ other catch phrase. We should run government like our family budget. I do not disagree. In 1983 I decided to build a home for my family. I did not have the $200,000 or so in the bank, so I made an informed financial decision to take out a mortgage. I paid it off over 15 years and my children got to grow up in the home. Had I waited to build the house for 15 years the cost would have been $375,000-$425,000. Pay me now or pay me later.

Interest rates are at an all-time low and they are even better for government bonds. It is asinine not to take advantage of this interest climate and the good financial state of Oklahoma. We should issue debt to take care of the major state needs.

Oh yes, as far as the $659 debt per person currently owed by each Oklahoman, I put that in perspective with my business and personal life. When my building was financed for $400,000, I individually owed $200,000 of the debt and my business partner owed $200,000 of the debt for 15 years. The $659 I owe the government on legitimate debt pales in comparison to our business debt. But the decision to borrow to build the office building was wise and time has proved that. And as for my home, there were four of us living there. Two were children, but we each, I suppose, could be attributed $50,000 a piece of the $200,000 home loan. Again, $659 per person is pretty insignificant in the overall scheme of things. I am happy I made an informed financial decision, borrowed money and built the home my children grew-up in and still call home.

None of us want to run the state government like Washington, D.C., but there is a time to get real and recognize that debt wisely issued is not an unpardonable sin.