Oklahoma school leaders are upset over Land Commission bill

Oil and gas companies that are delinquent in making royalty payments would save millions of dollars at the expense of Oklahoma schoolchildren under a bill expected to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
by Randy Ellis Modified: February 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: February 25, 2014
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Oil and gas companies that are delinquent in making certain royalty payments would retain millions of dollars at the expense of Oklahoma schoolchildren under a bill expected to be heard Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, Oklahoma’s kindergarten to 12th-grade schools would have received about $5.5 million less and higher education institutions would have received about $1.5 million less if the bill by state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, had been law, said Harry Birdwell, secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office.

Norman Schools Superintendent Joe Siano said of Senate Bill 1966, “We’re opposed to it. ... This seems like another ill-timed bill as it pertains to public schools.”

Siano said Norman schools would have lost about $115,000 so far this fiscal year if the bill were law.

Sykes did not return messages left Monday and Tuesday with his state Senate office.

Sykes’ bill would cut the interest rate that oil and gas companies must pay the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office on delinquent royalty payments from 12 percent to about 3 percent, Birdwell said.

Oil and gas companies would pay 12 percent interest to other state royalty owners, he said.

Birdwell said he doesn’t know why Sykes would want to shortchange a state agency that benefits schoolchildren.

The bill also would require the agency to use the state attorney general’s office for lawsuits involving public lands.

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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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