The Edmond Sun

May 29, 2014

Jolley says Legislature gets a ā€˜Cā€™

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — State Sen. Clark Jolley scores the 2014 legislative session with the letter “C” for average, he said at the Edmond Rotary luncheon this week.

“This legislative session was the most difficult I’ve seen serving the residents of Edmond in the Oklahoma State Senate,” Jolley said.

Once again, the state Legislature made no progress in funding the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum at the crossroads of Interstate 35 and I-40. This is a state project created by the Legislature nearly 20 years ago, said Jolley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Future legislatures continue discussing ways to resolve a funding solution for what costs taxpayers $600,000 a year just to maintain the facility. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in its current state is a liability to taxpayers, Jolley said.

Construction began nine years ago for the 210-acre project, and about $91 million has been spent so far, records reflect.

“There is no good solution that makes everybody happy on this,” Jolley said.

The Senate supported what it believed was the most fiscally responsible and conservative way to complete the project without the use of tax dollars and fees, Jolley said.

Gov. Mary Fallin and the state Senate supported legislation that would have appropriated $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund, which would be matched with $40 million pledged by non-federal and non-state sources to finish the project.

“We weren’t able to get it done,” Jolley said. “And candidly, the reason we weren’t able to get it done is the House wanted to spend that unclaimed property on budget.”

The state faced a $188 million budget shortfall this year, Jolley said.

The 39 federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma have pledged a combined $7.4 million for the project, according to Blake Wade, executive director of the Native American Indian Cultural Authority.

The land for the cultural center was donated to the state by the City of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City has pledged to contribute $9 million, and the balance would come from private pledges, Jolley said.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” Jolley said. “My suspicion is the City of Oklahoma City has rights to reclaim the property. That may be so and they can sue the state for the $80 million balance.”

One good thing the Legislature did was fund $120 million bond to begin the restoration of the state Capitol, said Jolley, a candidate for the 5th Congressional District. The Senate believes the total restoration cost will exceed $200 million.

“Shards of concrete fell on the House media staff’s desk on the weekend,” Jolley said. “We also had a possum that got into the House media staff (room).”

The Senate had asked for $160 million to fund the project. However, Jolley said the House agreed to the $120 million with the stipulation that the money is repaid in 10 years.

“We think we should allow the bond advisor to make that call instead of a bunch of politicians saying, ‘Here’s the terms of the rule,’” Jolley said. “We think a bond advisor should be able to make the best deal for the state of Oklahoma.”

GOP candidates for the 5th Congressional District include Jolley, Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, state Rep. Shane Jett, former state Sen. Steve Russell, former congressional aide Harvey Sparks and state Rep. Mike Turner.

Democrats running for the 5th District include former UCO professor Tom Guild of Edmond; state Sen. Al McAffrey of Oklahoma City; and Leona Leonard, chair of the Seminole County Democratic Party. The three Independent candidates running for the 5th District include Tom Boggs who currently lives in Thailand, Buddy Ray of Edmond, and Robert Murphy of Norman.

Voters will nominate their party’s candidates on June 24 for the statewide primary election. A run-off primary election is set for Aug. 26. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.