DALLAS — Funding for two museums in Oklahoma would come from $80 million of state general fund revenues over four years rather than state bonds under a new financing plan unveiled Thursday in the Oklahoma Senate.
The funding bills adopted by the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget will be heard by the House joint budget committee this week. The measures must be acted on by the end of the session on May 31.
Senate Bill 1132 provides $40 million to complete construction of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. Senate Bill 1133 pledges $40 million to begin work on the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa.
The committee approved the funding for the Oklahoma City museum on a 16-10 vote, but the Tulsa funding edged by on a 13-12 vote.
Sen. Clark Jolley, who chairs the joint budget panel, said the annual diversions from the general fund were needed because the House was reluctant to authorize new state debt. Jolley is listed as the sponsor for both bills.
The state has already spent $63 million of bond proceeds and other fund for the American Indian museum in Oklahoma City, Jolley said, and it is time to complete the project.
“We have to pay for it somehow,” Jolley said.
The proposed $40 million will be the final state money the American Indian Center will receive, he said.
“I would be of the firm opinion we are done,” Jolley said.
The bill allocates $15 million of use tax revenues to the project in fiscal 2015, another $15 million in fiscal 2016, and $10 million in fiscal 2017.
Oklahoma’s use tax is levied on out-of-state and on-line purchases.
Work began on the museum in 2005 with proceeds from a $33 million of state lease revenue bonds issued by the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority.
The 2008 Legislature approved a $25 million bond issue for the project but in 2010, lawmakers rejected a $43 million bond measure for the museum. Gov. Brad Henry allocated $6 million of federal stimulus dollars to the project in 2010,
A proposal for a $40 million state bond proposal failed in the final days of the 2012 session by a single vote in the Senate after approval by both legislative budget committees.
Supporters of the American Indian museum said the project could be completed with $40 million of bond proceeds to match $40 million in private pledges.
The Native American Cultural and Educational Authority was established by the Legislature in 1994 to build and operate the Oklahoma City museum.
Construction of the four-story OKPOP museum in Tulsa would be funded with revenues from the sales tax diverted from the general fund.
The project would receive $5 million in fiscal 2015, another $5 million in fiscal 2016, $10 million in fiscal 2017 and $20 million in fiscal 2018.
The OKPOP museum will be operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society, which expects revenue from a parking garage and retail sales will be sufficient to fund its operations.