With the Oklahoma Senate prepared to vote on the bill that will ultimately carry the appropriation for higher education, a Senate budget leader is urging Governor Keating to increase his support for colleges and universities to at least match the investment program outlined by the Oklahoma Senate.
Senate leaders have proposed a $75 million increase for higher education. The funding will ultimately be added into the budget shell bill that will be approved by the Senate today.
"We're a world apart right now, but I'm hoping Governor Keating will come down to earth on higher ed at some point," said Senator Cal Hobson, noting that Governor Keating has only proposed $43 million for higher education.
"If Governor Keating sticks with his current budget proposal, I'm afraid we'll lose ground on higher education, and we if lose ground there, we'll lose ground on economic opportunities and personal income."
The Lexington legislator, who serves as vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, cited a number of statistics linking higher education to economic development, namely personal income. For example:
"The statistics are fairly clear. They indicate higher education helps create wealth and economic activity, but unfortunately, the numbers also tell us Oklahoma isn't properly funding its universities.
"If we follow Governor Keating's strategy of slighting higher education, in effect giving it the budget leftovers, I'm concerned Oklahoma will never achieve the level of wealth and prosperity our citizens need and deserve," said Senator Hobson.
Even though Oklahoma has had growth revenue available during each year of his administration, Governor Keating has not made higher education a budget priority, even proposing a cut to colleges and universities his first year in office.
Gov. Keating's Higher Ed proposal
Amount Approved by Legislature
$14 million cut
$ 7 million increase
$47 million increase
$71 million increase
$43 million increase
$75 million (proposed)
"I'm convinced Governor Keating knows the value of a higher education. That's why I'm a little dismayed by his lack of budget support for colleges and universities," noted Senator Hobson.
"I know he's fond of saying he would like to make Oklahoma rich. I would suggest that stronger support of higher education on his part would get him a little bit closer to that goal."