By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Payne County legislators know it’s not going to be easy to restore $75 to $100 million to common education.
Oklahoma has approximately $240 million in unappropriated revenues. After years of austerity caused by the recession, every state agency wants more money.
A bill to eliminate the state franchise tax was approved by committee. The governor and some legislators are pushing 0.25 percentage point cut in the state income tax.
State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, told Stillwater residents Friday morning at a Stillwater Chamber of Commerce-sponsored legislative forum that those cuts would eat up the additional revenues.
“We have now covered the spread of anticipated extra income for the year,” Williams said. “At the same time, I’ve got education screaming for more money. We’ve got the D.A.’s screaming for money. We’ve got the Department of Corrections screaming for money.”
Williams. state Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and state Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, told those attending the forum they supported more money for common education.
During the recession, the state slashed the common education budget by $200 million, Denney said. Public schools don’t have enough textbooks. Class sizes have grown because teachers have been let go. Common education needs $75 to $100 million for textbooks and teachers.
Halligan said senators are being asked to sign a document supporting additional funding for common education.
“We are trying to build the appropriate amount of support,” Halligan said. “It’s always very good if you say there is a two-thirds majority here on the Senate floor that supports this type of appropriation. I’m optimistic that we are going to be successful.”