OKLAHOMA CITY — “It’s really funny, ... They were able to pass this law in a relatively short amount of time, but they weren’t able to get school finance done.” ~John Lockwood
The ninth week of session included a bittersweet mixture of activity here at the capitol.
We began Monday when, once again, the legislature bypassed state law and failed to pass an education budget. Implemented in 2003, the “Fund Education First” deadline has not been honored once during my tenure in the legislature.
Public schools await their supplementary budgets and must begin preparations for the next school year without a sense of how much money they will have. Last Monday afternoon on the House floor, I and many of my fellow colleagues continued our call to fully fund education, as soon as possible, by moving a motion to pass an education budget. Unfortunately, our motion was defeated along partisan lines.
The proposal to cut state revenues by lowering the state personal income tax also passed a Senate committee this week. Although the bill that passed the Senate committee actually lowers the personal income tax rate more than the House proposal, to 4.95 percent rather than 5 percent, the fact that the Senate’s bill does not implement the income tax cut until January 2015 tells us that the Senate recognizes it is not the right time to cut state revenues. With a recovering economy, growing state revenues need to be used to restore state funding to our core agencies.
Finally, we received the news of the death of Captain Rodrick “Pete” Norwood, the legislative liaison for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Both chambers honored this kind, good man. As was said about Captain Norwood when we passed HR 1012 honoring him, he embodied and symbolized what it meant to be in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The issue for which he worked tirelessly in our halls at the capitol this session was a pay raise for his colleagues in the OHP. Therefore, I am pleased that a Senate committee passed the bill giving the OHP raises. We look forward to seeing Norwood’s hard work pay off and the OHP getting the raises they deserve.