Oklahoma education initiative could cost $850M

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: September 23, 2009 at 10:18 am •  Published: September 23, 2009

/> Osborn, R-Tuttle, has said her measure, House Joint Resolution 1014, was not aimed at the HOPE petition. Voters will be deciding that measure also in November 2010.

"The teacher’s union readily admits that this state question would cost millions of dollars, and those funds will not magically appear on trees,” Osborn said.

In order to increase revenue by $850 million, the state income tax rate would have to be increased from 5.5 percent to about 7.35 percent, according to the House fiscal report. Another option would be to raise the state’s sales tax rate from 4.5 percent to about 6.2 percent.

Cutting other agency budgets would result in across-the-board cuts of about 20 percent to raise the necessary money, according to the report. Common education receives the highest percentage of money from the state budget. The next closest percentage goes to higher education, which receives 15 percent; the Oklahoma Health Care Authority receives 10 percent of the budget.

"If this state question is approved, the people’s representatives will not be able to prioritize competing needs and will have no say on the largest single component of the state’s budget,” Miller said. "Voters will decide at the polls whom they want making funding decisions in Oklahoma — those they elected to represent them at the state Capitol or politicians from other states.”

Phillip Busey, president and chief executive officer of the Busey Group, told committee members that SQ 744 is a "wake-up call.”

"We cannot separate education from economic development any longer,” he said.

Busey said his company serves the aerospace and energy industries, which are looking for bright students to hire for their work force.

Lynn Stockley, a counselor at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, told committee members educators have appealed to legislators for years for more funding.

"We need something to happen so we can have the resources to do our job,” she said.

"We have begged and begged for years.”


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