Oklahoma House is partly chilly on funding American Indian museum

A state Senate proposal to use $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is receiving a chilly reception among state House Republicans.
by Randy Ellis Modified: February 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm •  Published: February 20, 2014
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A state Senate proposal to use $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is receiving a chilly reception among state House Republicans.

“The initial reaction from the (Republican) caucus so far is they’re not sure this is going to be the year we’re going to be able to address that issue,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. “It’s unfortunate, because it’s a challenging situation and it should have been addressed long ago.”

Hickman said it is a matter of priorities for House Republicans during a tight budget year, when the Legislature has $188 million less to appropriate than it did last year.

“When you have a $188 million hole, I think it’s going to be difficult to explain to our corrections employees how we were able to put $40 million into a museum and yet couldn’t address the crisis there or the issues we have in DHS or other areas of state government,” he said. “The initial reaction from the caucus was not overwhelming in terms of embracing that idea.”

Political parties develop their positions on issues during closed caucus meetings. Hickman’s statements provide insight into what Republican House members are thinking.

Slow progress

The $170 million cultural center project seems to have been star-crossed.

Construction began in 2005, but the project ran out of money after about $91 million had been poured into it.

Oklahoma lawmakers — many of whom are convinced construction money was squandered and the project should have been completed long ago — have repeatedly refused to authorize additional bond money to complete it, even though the museum is projected to be a huge tourist attraction with great economic development potential.

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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When you have a $188 million hole, I think it’s going to be difficult to explain to our corrections employees how we were able to put $40 million into a museum and yet couldn’t address the crisis there or the issues we have in DHS or other areas of state government.”

House Speaker Jeff Hickman,

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