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Critics: School-spending bill could bypass voters

Critics: School-spending bill could bypass voters

This article first appeared in the Tulsa World. 

NOTE: As part of TRUST's 2009 Legislative Agenda, our coalition is opposed to SQ 744 as being harmful to transportation funding.  For our full 2009 agenda, please click here.

by: BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Saturday, April 25, 2009
4/25/2009 4:34:33 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY — A measure that passed the Senate this week appears to be an end run around a statewide vote aimed at increasing per-pupil spending.

Last year, supporters of the constitutional amendment to raise education spending to the regional average submitted 238,000 initiative petition signatures, well more than the 138,970 needed to get the issue on the ballot in 2010.

The Helping Oklahoma Public Education, or Hope, petition would require increasing education spending by about $850 million.

But if House Joint Resolution 1014 makes it to the ballot, it would take precedence over any other voter-initiated calls for spending.

HJR 1014, which passed the Senate 26-21 and now heads to the House, would let voters decide whether only the Legislature could determine how funds are spent, effectively blocking the Oklahoma Education Association-backed Hope petition.

"It is an end run around the Hope petition, but we are not worried," OEA President Roy Bishop said.

"We believe the people are committed to supporting the schools and want the Legislature to address the issue."

Sen. Kenneth Corn, D- Poteau, said HJR 1014 makes sweeping changes. He called it "anti-democratic," adding that it disenfranchises future generations of voters.

The measure would take precedence over any other spending measure initiated by the people, he said.

Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, the resolution's Senate sponsor, said: "We are the legislative body sent to the state Capitol to make decisions on behalf of all of Oklahomans, not just the interests of special interest groups. The Hope initiative has been initiated by one special group essentially demanding more money be spent on their behalf."

Lamb said the state expects to have about $900 million less to spend in fiscal year 2010 than it did this fiscal year.

"So what I haven't heard from those proponents of the Hope initiative is who would they like the money to be taken from," he said.

"Health care? The Department of Corrections? Department of Human Services? Should we take more money from roads and bridges?"

Lamb said that what Hope supporters are proposing is bad public policy.

"By its very nature, it (HJR 1014) is democratic," he said. "The people are making the decision. The people are voting on it."

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