Tulsa Lawmaker Says Education Funding Fell Victim To Party Politics

Thursday, May 24th 2012, 9:56 pm
By: News On 6

It took two tries to pass a nearly $7-billion state budget. Thursday's vote means lawmakers will not have to come back for a special session.

05/24/2012 Related Story: Budget Bill Passes Oklahoma House By A Single Vote

One Tulsa representative says she can't believe some lawmakers flip-flopped to pass the budget at the expense of education.

The budget came down to a battle for votes in the Oklahoma House.

"Leadership went back and found five people who were willing to change their votes for whatever reason," Tulsa Representative Jeannie McDaniel said.

The house approved the $6.8 billion bill to fund state government with a 52-42 vote, barely reaching the 51-vote requirement. Four hours earlier - the very same budget went down in defeat with a 47 to 47 vote.

Democrat Jeannie McDaniel voted against the bill both times because of the lack of education funding.

"Many of us were pushing, since we've had an increase in revenue this year, instead of putting over $300 in a rainy day fund, we were holding out for $50 million more for education, which would have stopped the layoffs," McDaniel said.

McDaniel and other Democrats say they got a loud and clear message that schools matter to the people of Oklahoma.

05/21/2012 Related Story: City Joins Tulsa-Area School Leaders To Push For More Education Funding

Weldon Watson of Tulsa and George Faught, who represents Cherokee and Muskogee Counties, were two of the lawmakers who changed their votes.

Faught said he didn't like the original budget because it didn't have enough spending cuts, but that alternate plans involved even more spending, so he reconsidered and supported the original budget.

Governor Mary Fallin calls the budget "fiscally conservative."

"It does provide the funding that we believe is appropriate for education, public safety, health, human services and transportation," Fallin said. "It actually has a small boost in some of those core areas."

The budget also includes funding to repair 706 structurally deficient bridges, changes at DHS, reforms to the criminal justice system and support for the energy industry.

The budget bill now heads to the governor's desk and she is expected to sign it. The legislative session ends Friday and the 2013 Fiscal Year begins on July 1, 2012.