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HJR: 1014 - Oklahoma voters may get new choice

HJR: 1014 - Oklahoma voters may get new choice

This article first appeared in The Oklahoman.

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT
Published: May 16, 2009

House members Friday approved a measure that would let Oklahoma voters decide whether to ban unfunded spending increases sought by people filing an initiative petition.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, the author of House Joint Resolution 1014, denied the measure is aimed at a group advocating more state funding for public education. The group, Helping Oklahoma Public Education, last year submitted more than enough signatures to put on the ballot a proposal that would require the Legislature to fund education, on a per-student basis, equal to the regional average. It’s estimated it would result in an additional $85 million a year for common education.

"This ensures constitutional integrity,” said Osborn, R-Tuttle. "It’s so that no special interest group can ever come in and change our appropriations process.

"It makes no sense to allow politicians from Arkansas and the five other surrounding states to dictate how Oklahoma government spends limited tax dollars,” she said. "The people of Oklahoma should make those decisions.”

Osborn said she heard some residents say they regretted signing the HOPE petition after they later saw how it would affect Oklahoma’s budget.

Rep. Ryan McMullen, D-Burns Flat, said people who feel that way can express that when the matter is on the ballot.

"Have faith in the voters to be able to figure that out on their own,” said McMullen, who opposed the measure.

Rep. Scott Inman said the proposal goes against the state constitution, which gives residents the right to file petitions to change laws or to increase or decrease funding.

"Their word supersedes ours,” said Inman, a Del City Democrat, who opposed the measure.

"This resolution says, ‘We’re scared that the people of Oklahoma may make a decision that we don’t like,’” Inman said.

Osborn said the intent is not for legislators to ignore the people’s will.

"We make the best decisions we can for our state economy on a year-to-year basis and that’s what we would maintain doing,” she said. "This is a common-sense measure that requires Oklahoma’s state budget to be based on the actual funds available and an accurate assessment of the state’s needs.”

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