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Senate Leader Hopes Higher Ed Day Moves Keating, Persuades Governor To Increase Budget For Colleges And Universities

Saying Governor Keating should pay more than "lip service" to higher education, a Senate budget leader is urging Governor to increase his executive budget for the state college system to closer match the plan proposed by the Oklahoma Senate.

Governor Keating spoke to college backers at Higher Education Day at the State Capitol today.

"Governor Keating has a knack of telling every different group that he supports them, but his rhetoric rarely matches reality. Higher education is a perfect example of Governor Keating giving lip service to a cause, but very little real support," said Senator Cal Hobson, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

With $284 million of growth revenue on the table this year, Senate leaders have proposed a $75 million budget hike for colleges and universities. Governor Keating only proposed $43 million when he released his executive budget last month.

Even though the state revenue estimate has been revised twice since then, growing by $67 million, Keating has not revised his higher ed budget proposal. Instead, he has proposed that the new money be spent on prisons and tax cuts.

"Governor Keating has had not one but two golden opportunities to correct the mistake he made when he shorted higher education in his original budget. Instead of fixing the problem, he ignored higher education and went for the flashy, public appeal of a tax cut.

"I'm a little surprised because the Governor has heard the same advice we have. Economists say higher education is the key to increasing personal income and attracting high-paying jobs, yet Governor Keating neglects the needs of colleges and universities. That's a recipe for economic disaster," said Senator Hobson.

In his remarks to higher ed supporters today, Governor Keating touted the fact that he signed the largest college budget increase in state history last year. What the Governor neglected to say, according to Senator Hobson, was that he signed the Legislature's higher education budget, not the one he proposed.

"Governor Keating has basically taken credit for something that we had to drag him kicking and screaming to do. I wouldn't mind his revisionist history so much if his attitude had changed about higher ed, but the facts indicate that he still isn't a strong or consistent supporter of our college system," 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.



Keating Higher Education proposal Amount Approved by Legislature

FY '96

$14 million cut $ 7 million increase

FY '97

$47 million increase $71 million increase

FY '98

$43 million increase $75 million (proposed)



"When it comes to Governor Keating's higher education record, there's certainly a lot of room for improvement. I just hope the Governor will keep the promises he made to higher education supporters today, and agree to increase his budget to an adequate level

"The clock is starting to tick on the budget process. The sooner Governor Keating changes his position on higher education, the better," concluded Senator Hobson.