Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, today filed legislation that would allow Oklahoma voters to decide whether the state should take on an additional $40 million in debt to fund the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM) in Oklahoma City.
AICCM, a state agency, last year requested a $40 million bond to complete construction of the facility. If approved, the bond would have brought the state’s total investment in the project to $107 million, all of which has been funded through bond issues.
“If the Legislature is going to consider obligating Oklahomans to another $40 million in debt on a non-essential function of state government, the taxpayers of this state should at the very least be given an opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Treat. “While I’m personally opposed to the state going further into debt, I think it would be wise for state leaders to make a decision on this issue as early as possible in the upcoming legislative session. The Legislature should be focused on more serious concerns, like eliminating waste and finding ways to make government more efficient, lowering the tax burden for Oklahomans and pursuing reform in the Department of Human Services.”
Treat noted a 2008 press release from AICCM indicated no more state money would be required for completion of the facility. The release was issued a day after the Legislature approved a $25 million bond for the project. However, the executive director of AICCM was recently quoted as saying the agency needed an additional $80 million to complete the cultural center, with the hope that the state would provide $40 million of the total amount required.
Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2012 bond debt payment on the project is $5,459,118. Treat said that if approved by the Legislature, an additional $40 million bond issue would increase debt payments on the project by approximately $3.5 million, pushing annual obligations as high as $9 million.
“I applaud recent comments by AICCM’s new executive director indicating a renewed interest in private fundraising by the agency,” Treat said. “Given that they are now making a concerted effort in that regard, I’m confident they’ll have continued success raising money. I’m simply proposing an alternative to the Legislature arbitrarily burdening Oklahomans with an additional $40 million in debt on this project.”