OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Frank Keating has vetoed a measure that would have perfected the state's position to restore high speed passenger rail service to Oklahoma.
In vetoing Senate Bill 848, Governor Keating is robbing the people of Oklahoma of a means of transportation enjoyed by 48 other states. Senator Dave Herbert, who has led the passenger rail movement in Oklahoma for the past four years, is expressing disappointment in what he calls "the Governor's lack of vision for Oklahoma."
"If you have one ounce of conservative blood in your veins, you know now is the time for Oklahoma to invest in rail passenger service, and not wait until it costs a fortune, Senator Herbert said. "States all over America are expanding their rail passenger service. Clean air problems and quality of life for senior citizens unable to drive and afraid to fly are just two reasons Oklahoma should invest today."
"SB 848 simply put the funding for Amtrak service back to Oklahoma at the level that was set by the Governor and the Legislature back in 1992," said Senator Herbert. "State Transportation Director Neal McCaleb told me twice that he had no problem with the bill. In his veto message, the Governor said 'this is not the direction Oklahoma wants to go right now.' If that is the case, one very powerful Republican, U.S. Senator Don Nickles, and 149 members of the Oklahoma Legislature were not aware the Governor was changing the direction."
The Governor has met with Amtrak officials and claimed he supported bringing passenger rail service to the people of Oklahoma. The state has paid for several studies to prove its feasibility. Mr. McCaleb has gone to Washington D.C. to testify before a special Senate committee to proclaim that Oklahoma is ready for passenger rail service.
Senator Don Nickles has worked for several years to get funding to help Oklahoma get back into the National Rail System. He was successful in getting $23 million for Oklahoma to restore rail passenger service, and getting Amtrak to commit to giving Oklahoma trains and equipment.
"I am truly concerned and confused," said Senator Herbert. "The Governor seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth. Just like Frank and Jesse James, the Governor and Mr. McCaleb are robbing the trains from Oklahomans. I'm afraid the Governor is going to divert the rail passenger money to areas that would benefit his political friends and not Oklahoma."
The state of Texas is now in the process of connecting San Antonio and Austin by high speed rail. The state of Arizona is in the process of connecting Phoenix to the surrounding cities by high speed rail. Missouri has connected Kansas City and St. Louis by high speed rail. Colorado is expanding its rail service.
"The longer we wait, the more it will cost Oklahoma," Senator Herbert said. "Let's not be foolish and wait until we have to purchase right of way by the square inch to move in to the 21st century. Oklahoma is now positioned to move forward and the Governor needs to lead, follow or get out of the way."- 30 -