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Education Coalition: Quit talking of tax cuts

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma school budgets are already tight and layoffs will occur if there are additional budget cuts, leaders of the Oklahoma Education Coalition warned Monday.

``We're calling for no more talk of tax cuts,'' said Keith Ballard, coalition chairman and executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

Ballard was critical of a House vote last week that would roll back an automatic increase in the state's personal income tax at a cost of $84 million. That would exacerbate a financial situation that educators feel is already desperate, he said.

Officials said a 1.6 percent education budget cut ordered by the Office of State Finance for the next four months will produce shortages of supplies in schools, possibly leading to cuts in school workers.

Threatened budget cuts of more than 4 percent next year will lead to teacher layoffs and a loss of course offerings, said Randall Rayburn, executive director of the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration.

A reduction of that magnitude ``would be devastating'' to schools, Ballard said.

At a news conference, leaders of the education group praised 48 House members who voted last week against the repeal of a one-quarter of a percent automatic increase in the personal state income tax.

Repeal would fall mostly on education at a time they ``already are on a tight shoe string,'' Ballard said.

``We know these legislators will now be portrayed as voting against a tax cut,'' he said. ``In reality, they voted for Oklahoma children.''

The measure containing the tax cut was sent to the Senate, where it is expected to see strong opposition.

``With state revenues in a free fall, it is a serious threat that Oklahoma schools may face budget cuts in this current fiscal year,'' said Carolyn Crowder, president of the Oklahoma Education Association. ``To reduce state revenues further is foolish.''
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