The state Transportation Board has just voted overwhelmingly to reverse a change in accounting practices that DOT implemented over the last two years after searing reports from the state auditor. At the same time, they’re requesting an official opinion from the attorney general.
The auditor’s office said that DOT had been unconstitutionally signing multi-year contracts – when it had, for example, only the first year’s money in the bank and the expectation of future revenues – rather than waiting as it should until it had set aside all the money in the bank for all years of the contract.
If the move succeeds it might free up hundreds of millions of dollars for projects, and the supporters said, create jobs that are desperately needed now. If it doesn’t, uneasy DOT staff cautioned, DOT could wind up back in a deficit, having to choke off spending again to fill the hole. Board members who supported the measure said that they would move slowly to bid out multi-year contracts, hoping the attorney general would rule soon.
A lawyer in the attorney general’s office had strongly backed up the state auditor, but some board members said they believed that Attorney General Thurbert Baker himself supported DOT on this one issue, and they wanted him to put his opinion in writing.
Board Member Bobby Parham, who served in the state House of Representatives for 35 years until he came on the board last year, brought the issue up, and David Doss made the motion. Parham said it wasn’t up to the auditor to say what was constitutional, it was up to the judiciary.
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