Several days ago the state Senate approved Senate Bill 1651 in another attempt to use taxpayer funds to complete the construction of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. The bill, if approved by the House and governor, would spend another $40 million of taxpayer dollars on the project.
The cultural center already has been provided with three allocations of $33 million, $25 million and $5 million. The appropriations were funded with debt part of which still haunts the state budget and will continue to do so for many years.
That money has been spent.
A subsequent audit of this spending revealed “a number of inconsistencies and deficiencies that can be attributed to improper planning,” and a project that ran out of money.
The audit further disclosed that the government agency that oversees the project had failed to implement best budgeting practices. It painted a picture of a board that spent lavishly without staying within the constraints of a realistic budget. The audit revealed no apparent in-depth economic analysis of alternative plans or the use of less expensive options.
This unfinished project serves merely as an empty reminder of bad planning and consumed taxpayer money.
Now, for the fourth time, more money is requested.
It’s hard to believe that Oklahoma lawmakers are so gullible as to suggest that the fourth time’s the charm and this money will not also be wasted, contrary to all previous evidence.
The request has not been well received by those who live in House District 31. I think this has become the most organically emailed subject sent to me by the local constituency. Nearly all of those who email are not willing for policy makers to commit for a fourth time to an obviously failed project. They believe this project would be much better administered by a private interest (such as the tribes) who could finish it according to free market standards. They feel the site should be sold to someone with business acumen.
The failure of this project highlights the lesson which has been repeatedly ignored by advocates of big government and debt-based spending. It is never good when a government entity is suddenly empowered with a rapid cash infusion and the spending of millions of dollars of other peoples’ money. The officials who oversee that entity all too often give in to the temptation to build an empire and spend the money of future generations at the suggestion of the massive army of vendors who benefit from the excessive spend.
I opposed the previous debt issuance for the project and also will vote “No” on Senate Bill 1651.
You may review the audit referenced in this article by visiting HD31.org/589.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com.