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Three words for lawmakers on spending new money: Roads, roads, roads

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By Sherry Robinson

Thanks mostly to oil and gas, legislators will have $1.2 billion or more in new money to divvy up in the next session.
After the bruising budget cutting of just a couple of years ago, it’s enough to make legislative finance people giddy. But they’re not giddy. They and we have gotten a lot more realistic about the cycles of state revenues.

There’s much talk about salting money away in reserves and a newly created rainy day fund, and that’s prudent.

Beyond that, lawmakers will be awash in suggestions. Of course, that never stopped a red-blooded opinion columnist.
With the ups and down of our revenues, budgeters will have to be very careful of committing money to recurring programs – even such favorites as early childhood education – because the funding might not be there in the future.

However, this is a fine opportunity to make some one-time expenditures, and they should begin with roads.

In January, TRIP, a transportation research group, released its yearly report. Of our major roads, 27 percent are in poor condition, 20 percent mediocre, 12 percent fair, and 41 percent good. Of rural roads, 28 percent are poor, 25 percent mediocre, 13 percent fair, and 34 percent good.


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