Bill to change Oklahoma's college scholarship program advances

Oklahoma House Democrats didn't get enough Republicans to join them to oppose lowering the cap on the Oklahoma's Promise scholarship program.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 5, 2013
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After more than 40 minutes, or longer than the traditional debate time on a bill, House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, entered the House chamber and talked with Wesselhoft; Wesselhoft then apologized for making the motion and asked that normal debate time be allowed on the bill.

About 20,000 students are enrolled in the Oklahoma Promise scholarship program, said Ben Hardcastle, spokesman for the state Regents for Higher Education. The program will receive about $63.1 million this fiscal year.

Reducing the income cap from $100,000 to $60,000 would save the state about $1.7 million and affect about 500 students a year, Osborn said.

Her intent, she said, was not to find savings for a proposed quarter-percent cut in the state personal income tax, which would cost the state about $120 million annually when fully implemented.

The program was created 21 years ago; to qualify then, a family could make no more than $24,000 a year. That later rose to $32,000 and then to $50,000. To ensure funding, the Legislature several years ago stopped funding it as part of the appropriations process for higher education; instead it is funded before the appropriations process begins.