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Democrats blast republican plan to take money from road and bridge repairs

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- State democrats are criticizing republicans for a plan they say will take money from the transportation budget. The plan they are referring to is part of the budget republicans are working on for the state.

Representative David Perryman, a democrat representing Chickasha and surrounding areas, says, “It's a matter of safety for my family, for your family and for the visitors to the state of Oklahoma.”

The democratic caucus gathered Tuesday at the decaying Belle Isle Bridge to draw attention to a plan they say republicans have to siphon money from needed road and bridge projects to other areas.

Representative Eric Proctor, a democrat from Northeast Tulsa, said, “Oklahoma's roads bridges and highways that are structurally deficient will never be fixed by a structurally deficient state budget.”

Chair of the House Budget Committee, Representative Earl Sears, said, “To say that we're going to balance this budget on the back of transportation really it's silly, that's all I can say.”

Sears, a republican from Bartlesville, says there is a plan to cut excess money from the plan known as the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges plan.

Sears said, “That particular budget will continue to have about $240-million, plus a very significant amount of money that comes from the motor vehicle revenue stream.”

The fund will be capped at $240-million. Any funds over that amount will go to the general fund.

Sears says that will allow those projects within the CIRB plan to continue uninterrupted.

While he agrees it's an unfortunate decision he says it's not the hardest hit area under the budget republicans are currently working on. Many other departments will likely see painful cuts in an effort to make up a more than $600-million
state budget shortfall.

Sears said, “It will not be pretty. There will be deep cuts. They range anywhere from flat to as high as 7-percent.”

Representative Scott Inman, a democrat from Del City, said, “While we understand that state is in a budget crisis we cannot, we cannot move backwards on a core function of government like roads and bridges.”

Democrats say they will vote 'no' on any bill that touches funding to the transportation budget.

Representative Sears would not say which departments could see the biggest cuts. He would only say it will likely be painful, but it's necessary in order to balance the budget.

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