Stillwater News Press

May 3, 2014

OUR VIEW: Education funding is a priority

Stillwater News Press

— Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin gave the state legislature, especially the House of Representatives, a wakeup call when she vetoed 15 bills.

During her news conference, Fallin said she had killed the House bills because they had no substantial effect, were redundant or contained bad policy.

“Unfortunately, our progress has stalled here at the Capitol,” Fallin said. The legislature is passing bills that are not relevant to a majority of Oklahoma residents.

Fallin said she wanted legislators to focus on the state budget, repairs to the crumbling state Capitol, curbing prescription drug abuse and making the state pension system solvent.

The legislative session will end at 5 p.m. May 30.

Perhaps, Fallin is just shaking the tree to get everything accomplished before the session ends.

Legislators who serve the Stillwater area don’t necessarily see it that way.

Friday, State Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, said Fallin’s vetoes had little to do with the legislature focusing on minor issues.

“The vetoes were not about subject, they were about process. She’s mad at us but she can’t say that,” Williams said.

The House didn’t pass some of her priorities, like repairs for the state Capitol or providing funding to complete the Native American Cultural Center.

Fallin’s vetoes probably will not result in legislators revisiting her must-have budget items.

Legislator must move forward with the state budget. It’s clear area legislators will be focusing on one area of funding — education.

State Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, and State Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, said Friday legislators must find more money for schools and teachers.

Public education is underfunded by $800 to $1,000 per pupil, Halligan said. Education funding comprises more than 50 percent of Oklahoma’s budget.

“If we spend 50 percent of our money on education, you’d think we’d spend 50 percent of our time talking about it,” Casey said.

Legislators don’t, but education funding needs to be a priority as the session winds down.