Oklahoma’s five military installations – which state officials said were a major priority when under a federal magnifying glass two years ago – were shut out of receiving state funds in the budget proposal that won overwhelming legislative support.
The Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission’s request for $3 million was not included in the $6.87 billion budget package lawmakers approved last month. Gov. Brad Henry since has vetoed the proposal; no progress has been made on coming up with a new budget.
Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, a member of the commission, urged commission members, which include a representative from each of the communities with military installations, to contact legislators to make sure the funding is included in the 2008 fiscal year budget, which takes effect July 1.
The commission, since being formed in 2003, has received annual state appropriations of $1 million, commission Chairman Mike Cooper of Enid said.
Commissioners each year usually gave about $200,000 to the state’s five military installations – Altus Air Force Base, Vance Air Force Base at Enid, Fort Still in Lawton, the Army ammunition plant in McAlester and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The money allows communities that are home to military bases to apply for matching grants for infrastructure and road improvements.
The seven-member commission was formed to help the communities make the military institutions less vulnerable for closing or downsizing in 2005 by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The military installations escaped closure.
The return on the state’s financial allocation to help communities with military institutions is huge, Cooper said.
For example, a $200,000 allotment to the city of Enid was part of the city’s $1.2 million share to build a new road so new security gates could be built at Vance Air Force Base, he said. The state chipped in $3.2 million of road funds. The Air Force built two gates, one costing $7.5 million and the other costing $16.5 million.
“With this about $4 million investment, just with the gates alone that means that you spent about $23 million in your community,” Cooper said.
Enid leaders were able to show the project to the closure commission representatives to illustrate how “the community and the state work together with the congressional delegation to make things happen.”
The military installations offer among the highest-per capita-income jobs and are the largest employer in their communities, Cooper said. The bases have an overall economic impact of about $8 billion to the state.
The commission asked for $3 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal year to further assist the military installations, he said. Some states, such as Texas and Mississippi, offer larger levels of financial support.
“It’s not just protecting the base, it’s more about enhancing or expanding,” Cooper said.