Stillwater News Press

February 19, 2013

Halligan says caution is the key word in spending cuts

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Oklahoma legislature’s waiting list expanded Monday.

It now includes reduction of the state’s personal income tax rate and spending approximately $210 million in unanticipated revenue, State Sen. Jim Halligan said.

The Stillwater Republican said many federal programs will experience across- the-board spending reductions on March 1 unless Congress can agree on ways to reduce the deficit.

Oklahoma may not receive as much federal funding and military installations, including Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Vance Air Force Base in Enid and Fort Sill in Lawton, could face cuts as well.

The 10-year cuts will total $1.2 trillion, and apply equally to defense and nondefense spending.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, discussed the federal cuts, known as sequestration, during a lunch meeting with state senators. Lucas told the state senators, Halligan said, the across-the-board cuts will happen.

“We will have to assess the fiscal impact sequestration will have on Oklahoma. It slows everything down,” Halligan said in a telephone interview Monday from the state Capitol.

Caution is the key word, he said.

Wednesday, Halligan, chairman of the education subcommittee, and two other senators proposed a $75- to $100-million increase for common education in the 2014 fiscal year.

More funding for common education is a priority, Halligan said at the time. Legislators will wait and see what happens in Washington.

State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, said common education needs additional funding. Oklahoma spends $9,369 per pupil annually, according to 2009 data supplied by Kids Count. That ranks 39th nationally. Wyoming spends the most per pupil, $18,038.

“There is a direct correlation between what you pay for and what you get,” Williams said Friday.

Providing more money for education is one of the reasons why Williams said he doesn’t support Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposal to reduce the personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.

Oklahoma teachers are required to have a degree, certification and continuing eduction. They are paid in the high- $20,000. A state representative must be at least 21 and live in the district he represents. A state representative earns $38,400 annually.

“We need to treat our teachers like it’s a position that we respect,” Williams said. “They are a person who has as much influence in our children’s lives as parents do.”