Saying recent statements by Governor Keating are misleading, a Senate budget leader is asking the Governor to substantiate his claim that a diversion of motor vehicle fee revenue will have "no impact" on education or other entities that currently receive the money.
"I'm afraid Governor Keating is trying to play Santa Claus. He's promising to hand out presents to everyone without hurting anyone," said Senator Kelly Haney, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "I wish we could do that, but in our world of limited resources, it's just not possible."
Governor Keating has proposed diverting motor vehicle fee revenue from its current recipients to the transportation department. The current recipients are education, county roads, cities and towns, the wildlife fund, the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement fund and the general revenue fund among other things.
In a statement last week, the Governor purported that his proposed revenue diversion "will have no impact on funding for other areas of state government, including education."
"That would be a neat magic trick, but no matter what sleight of hand Governor Keating uses, common sense and statistical reality dictate that he can't pull it off without hurting education," said Senator Haney.
When pressed for details to back up his vague assertions, Governor Keating has suggested that there will be "no impact" because only growth revenue will be taken from the motor vehicle fund. Under the Governor's logic, education will not be harmed if it doesn't receive its share of additional revenue from future growth of motor vehicle fees.
"Governor Keating wants to divert money that is currently earmarked for education. It doesn't matter whether he calls it 'growth' revenue or 'existing' revenue, it's still school money," said Senator Haney.
The Senate budget leader used a past example of motor vehicle revenue growth to illustrate his point. For example, from FY '95 to FY '96 education's share of motor vehicle revenue grew by approximately $9.1 million, going from $167.1 million to $176.2 million.
If growth revenue had been diverted to ODOT under the Keating program in FY '96, education would have lost the additional $9.1 million.
Motor Vehicle Revenue Earmarked for EducationUnder Current Allocation Formula
Under Keating Plan
FY '95$167.1 million $167.1 million
FY '96$176.2 million $167.1 million
Total$176.2 million $167.1 million
"I don't know what kind of calculator Governor Keating is using, but mine shows education loses at least $9 million dollars under the Governor's program. And that's just in one year," said Senator Haney.
"If that's Governor Keating's idea of 'no impact,' I'd hate to see what would happen to education if he really intended to have an impact."
The Senate budget leader wants the Governor to show, using hard budget data and statistical analysis, how his funding diversion plan would have "no impact" on education and other affected entities such as county roads.
"Governor Keating really needs to back up his claims with hard numbers. To do anything less would be misleading," said Senator Haney.
"We need to have an open and honest debate on this issue, but it's impossible to do that if one of the participants refuses to acknowledge statistical reality."