Backers of two Oklahoma museum projects hustling to get state funding in the last days of the session withdrew their requests Tuesday because of deadly tornadoes that struck the state this week.
“Due to the unfolding tragedy facing our friends and neighbors in the Moore and Shawnee communities, we agree this is the best course of action,” Mike Neal, president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, a supporter of the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, commonly called OK Pop. “We applaud Gov. (Mary) Fallin, the Legislature and other state leaders for their diligent attention to ensuring any and all state resources are focused on assisting the victims of this terrible tragedy.”
Blake Wade, executive director of the Native American Education Authority, which is trying to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, agreed that legislators should put their attention on the needs of those suffering from Sunday's tornado in Shawnee and Monday's tornado that caused extensive damage and multiple deaths in Moore.
“Native leaders and communities have always put the needs of the community at the forefront of all decision-making,” Wade said. “We stand united with all who are suffering and all who are doing all they can to provide comfort, relief and rescue to those in need. Tomorrow we will look optimistically to the future of The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.”
A Senate special budget committee approved funding plans for both projects last week. Measures called for money to start being allocated to both projects in the 2015 fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2014.
The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in downtown Oklahoma City would receive use tax receipts for three years, according to Senate Bill 1132. SB 1133 called for OK Pop, in Tulsa, to receive sales tax money for four years.
The American Indian museum project was awaiting action in the Senate after a House of Representatives budget committee passed SB 1132 on Monday. The House committee was expected to take up SB 1133 on Tuesday. Both bills are still alive and might be taken up during next year's session.
“We need to be thinking first of our fellow Oklahomans who have suffered from this devastating disaster,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, which would manage OK Pop. “I have talked to board members, private donors and supporters who have pledged matching resources for the museum, and they are in total agreement. This is the time to grieve and rally around those who need our help.”