OKC Mayor Holt touts infrastructure package that promises billions


While the deadline for a US House votes on $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and state business leaders urged the move and highlighted the benefits of increased funding for roads and transit.

“For OKC, this package promises to bring better roads and bridges, better transit, better passenger rail, better broadband and many other benefits,” Holt said in a tweet Tuesday.

Oklahoma members of the US House whose districts include parts of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area criticized the cost of the legislation and did not approve the package, which is expected to be put to a vote early in next week.

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Oklahoma Sens. Republicans Jim Inhofe and James Lankford voted against the bill in August, while 19 out of 50 Republicans, including Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, backed it.

Inhofe, who has long been a champion of infrastructure spending, criticized the bill for not having money for the military, although there is an annual spending bill dedicated to military construction.

Some Oklahoma lawmakers have cited Congressional Budget Office analysis showing the bill would add $ 250 billion to the national debt.

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Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said in an interview with The Oklahoman last month that he was not ready to take a stand.

“It matters to me that our two senators – especially Senator Inhofe, who is famous for infrastructure – thought it was not the right thing to do. We will examine it.

Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, said in an interview her main concerns were the cost of the bill and the inclusion of a pilot program to study replacing gasoline taxes with mileage charges. traveled. Such a charge has been discussed for years to ensure that owners of hybrid and electric vehicles help pay for the roads.

Representative Stéphanie Bice

“There are things that could come out of this,” said Bice. “The Republicans were asking for a smaller infrastructure package. We were glad we fired for about $ 600 billion. But it’s significantly more than that. So I would like the costs to come down so that it was paid in full. . This still represents an incredible investment for communities, including broadband, including ports and waterways. “

Representative Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, whose district includes the Canadian County, one of the most dynamic parts of the Oklahoma City metro area, and large swathes of rural Oklahoma, did not take a position on the bill.

According to the White House, the bill would authorize more than $ 5 billion spending in Oklahoma over five years.

Most, $ 4.3 billion, would go to roads, with another $ 266 million for bridge replacement and repair; state transit will receive $ 354 million and $ 66 million will be allocated to expand the electric vehicle charging network in Oklahoma; the state would get $ 100 billion to improve broadband in rural areas.

The State House this week posted a message on its social media accounts touting the $ 5.8 billion bill funding for Oklahoma; the post was part of a US Chamber of Commerce campaign.

Chad Warmington, President and CEO of the State House, said in an interview on Wednesday that the trade organization would still support increased infrastructure spending, but trusted the Congressional delegation’s judgment on the specific legislation.

“We want them to see their concerns addressed, and we want them to keep working to try and do something,” Warmington said of Oklahoma lawmakers. “So we’re not going to disagree with them in any way, under any circumstance, because that’s why we have them here – to go after the devil in the details, so to speak.

“But in general, we will support investments in infrastructure. It’s good for Oklahoma. We desperately need this investment here.

The State House has its annual fall trip to Washington scheduled for next week, when Bill could be on House floors.

The bill has been politically and procedurally linked to a separate $ 3.5 trillion tax and spending bill, which is a top priority for the White House and Democratic leaders. The feuds between the various Democratic factions could derail the plans to vote on the infrastructure bill.

According to some media, Republican House leaders are urging GOP members to oppose the bill.

Holt, a Republican who was part of a bipartite group of mayors who met with President Joe Biden in the White House in July on the bill, has been the state’s most high-profile callback for the legislation, in particular touting pledged investments in transit and passenger rail service.

Holt’s predecessor Mick Cornett, also a Republican, co-wrote a column last month in the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call calling for passage of the bill. The column was written with former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat.

“We are not here to blame or throw partisan bombs,” the former mayors said. “There are enough of them in Washington these days. We are here to urge cold heads to prevail. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and let this good bill become another victim of politics.

Le Bice, whose district includes most of Oklahoma City, said Holt and Cornett were friends. But she refused to approve the bill.

“The cost and mileage charges are problematic,” she said.

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