A proposal will be made Monday to redirect $40 million in proposed state funding away from Oklahoma City’s partially built American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, state Rep. Sean Roberts announced Friday.
Roberts, R-Hominy, said he wants the $40 million to be redirected and split evenly, with $20 million going for exterior repairs to the state Capitol and $20 million going to fund kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.
“It is irresponsible to propose providing money to a questionable project that will primarily benefit Oklahoma City when we are struggling to provide adequate funding for education and for the repair of the ‘People’s House,’” Roberts said.
State Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, contends Roberts is the one being fiscally irresponsible and said he plans to strongly fight the proposed change.
The $40 million in proposed funding for the museum would come from excess revenues in the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund.
Dank said revenues made available to the Legislature from the Unclaimed Property Fund vary greatly from year to year and should not be relied on for education operational expenses, because that can lead to future funding crises.
State Treasurer Ken Miller issued a similar warning.
“If the Legislature can’t build a 12-month operating budget without using non-recurring revenues, then perhaps there should be some serious reexamination of fiscal priorities,” Miller said. “While it is within their authority to do so, it would not be prudent.”
‘It’s our ace’
Dank said the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum would be wonderful for Oklahoma and take advantage of the state’s unique tribal heritage.
“We have something here that could be huge for the state of Oklahoma,” Dank said. “It’s our ace and it needs to be played. It’s just like the Thunder (NBA basketball team).”
Senate Bill 1651, the museum funding bill, previously passed the state Senate and is scheduled to be heard Monday by the House Natural Resources and Regulatory Services subcommittee. That’s the same day that thousands of teachers and parents are scheduled to rally at the state Capitol for higher teacher pay and increased education funding.
Roberts contends amending the bill would be “a huge win for teachers and students.”