Oklahoma's education budget will face an annual cut of $597 million if Governor Keating successfully implements his two major tax cut initiatives. The prison system would also be a big funding loser, according to a new analysis by the Senate staff.
"If Governor Keating's program is adopted, we won't be won't be 47th in education funding anymore. We'll be 50th, the worst in the country," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
"That's a terrible signal to send to the people who put a top priority on education: the industrial recruits and business leaders who are shopping around the country for a highly skilled work force to fill their jobs. We might as well put up a sign at the border that says 'Oklahoma Closed for Business.'"
The Senate analysis indicated education, which currently receives approximately 60 percent of state appropriations, would stand to lose the most under the Governor's tax initiatives.
"That's a pretty big bite out of our best economic development tools just so we can give a handful of wealthy Oklahomans a huge tax cut. The Governor is apparently bent on rewarding a few rich supporters, even if it means sacrificing jobs, economic growth and our kids' future in the process," said Senator Roberts, noting that the richest 5 percent of Oklahomans will get more than one-third of Keating's income tax cut.
The Ardmore legislator pointed out a majority of Oklahoma economists surveyed recently recommended increased support of education rather than a tax cut to boost economic development. That advice is consistent with the suggestions of national economic experts.
"Governor Keating is an educated man and he's heard the same advice we have. His decision to ignore the experts' advice just tells me he's more interested in winning votes with an election year tax cut program than he is in moving Oklahoma forward," said Senator Roberts.
The Senate analysis indicated the prisons budgets will also take a beating under the Keating tax cut program. That despite the fact that Governor Keating has promised to support full funding of the increased costs of truth-in-sentencing.
"You can't promise to lock up more criminals and improve the public schools at the same time you're pledging to lop off about a quarter of the state budget. If we cut taxes to the level Governor Keating has proposed, we crash the prison budget and the public schools," said Senator Roberts.
"At some point Governor Keating is going to have to decide whether he wants to give large tax cuts to the wealthiest Oklahomans or be a champion for education and prisons. He can't claim to be both and be honest to the Oklahoma people."