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Governor’s School Bond Plan Meets With Resistance

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With just over a month remaining in the current legislative session, Governor Mary Fallin has released a revised budget plan, that would apparently replenish all of the expected $1.3 shortfall in next year’s state budget. The key features of the plan are tax cuts and school bonds, which has led to the budget plan meeting with a less than enthusiastic response from Republicans in both houses of the state legislature.

With deficits looming over the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and possible cuts to funding on the horizon for public schools, Governor Fallin developed a plan to shield Oklahoma public schools and other state services from budget cuts. But the plan, which in part calls for the issuance of up to $500 million in bonds for road construction, received a less than positive reception in the Oklahoma State House and Senate.

House and Senate leaders admit that there is support for some of the governor’s proposals, but Republicans in both the House and Senate oppose her plan to generate revenue for public school and other services by issuing by shuffling the money from road works projects and paying for those projects by issuing up to $500 million in bonds. Democratic support in the two chambers would be necessary to pass the bonds, but many Democrats are upset with the governor because she signed off on a decreased state income tax rate that went into effect January 1st of this year.

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The state currently has about $2 billion in taxpayer-backed bond debt on its books, and another $125 million is currently in a bill pending in the senate. The money generated by those proposed bill would be used to complete repairs to the state Capitol building. Governor Fallin responded by stating that about 40 percent of Oklahoma’s current bond debt will be paid off over the next five years, and that Oklahoma’s economy will eventually recover.

The governor’s proposal also includes an elimination of sales tax exemptions for sports tickets, advertising and products sold to airlines. Lawmakers in both houses are also looking at ways to generate revenue. Negotiators in the House and Senate reached an agreement, which includes the elimination of over $200 million in tax credits, including those for child care, wind power and rebates for unprofitable wells.

The governor said she understands there will be some resistance to her proposals, but said she wanted to put forth a group of ideas for lawmakers to consider in their budget talks, while members of the House and Senate face the undaunted task of trying to reach a consensus on the governor’s proposals.

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source: The Lawton Constitution

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