Legislative approval urged for Oklahoma toll increases

Legislative approval urged for Oklahoma toll increases Tulsa World: By Barbara Hoberock State Sen. Randy Brogdon has filed legislation to deprive the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority of the power to increase tolls. Brogdon’s Senate Bill 1773 would require two-thirds of the Legislature to approve a turnpike toll increase. The Turnpike Authority in July approved a toll increase averaging 16 percent. The authority said that toll increase, which took effect Aug. 4, was necessary due to a drop in toll revenue. "The OTA raised rates at a very inopportune time,” said Brogdon, who is running for governor. "Thousands of Oklahomans are losing their jobs. The economy has fallen down.” The Owasso Republican said his measure also would require two-thirds approval by the Legislature if the turnpike authority wanted to sell bonds. "Agencies don’t have the ability to raise fees and taxes without authorization from the Legislature,” Brogdon said. "I think this puts elected officials in the line of fire where they belong. Hopefully, my colleagues will agree with me.” Gary Ridley, state transportation secretary and turnpike authority director, said the authority has some concerns and agency officials will be talking to Brogdon and legislative leaders about the measure. "We don’t enjoy raising tolls,” Ridley said. "I want to make sure you know that.” Tolls generate revenue for the system and allow the turnpike authority to reduce its debt. Debt is incurred to expand and maintain the system, said Deputy Director Tim Stewart. The turnpike authority has about $1.1 billion in debt, most of which is the result of expanding the system, he said. The turnpike authority sold bonds in late 1998 to expand the Creek Turnpike in Tulsa, the Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City and a spur reaching from the H.E. Bailey Turnpike into the Norman area. The expansions opened in 2000 and 2001, Stewart said. "If there is not sufficient revenue that comes in, we have to make changes in the revenue stream,” Stewart said. "That method is by increasing tolls.” The turnpike authority operates 10 turnpikes. Read more: http://www.newsok.com/legislative-approval-urged-for-oklahoma-toll-increases/article/3434458#ixzz0dfwKaaOt