By suggesting that motor vehicle revenue currently earmarked for education will be diverted to transportation needs if his new urban turnpikes are not built, Governor Keating is once again threatening the budgets of public schools, according to a Senate budget leader.
"I'm continually surprised by Governor Keating's attempts to raid any and all funding sources for public education," said Senator Cal Hobson, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Lexington legislator was referring to Governor Keating's statement at a news conference today that he would pursue diverting motor vehicle revenues to transportation if the Legislature would not support his turnpike package.
"I don't know whether that's a promise or a threat by Governor Keating, but it's certainly an alarming prospect for our education system."
In recent weeks, Governor Keating and his transportation secretary have advocated diverting motor vehicle tag revenue from its current beneficiaries to transportation. Education currently receives one-third of those moneys. The public schools received $176 million in motor vehicle fees last year alone.
"If Governor Keating gets his hands on those motor vehicle dollars, education will lose and lose big. We keep trying to put money into our public schools, but he keeps trying to take it back out. It's pretty reckless behavior, especially from someone who claims to be a 'tremendous friend of education," said Senator Hobson.
The Senate budget leader said he also finds it "highly inappropriate" for Governor Keating to link his two new turnpikes to the education budget.
"There should be no link, either by implication or threat, between the Keating turnpikes and the education budget. It's inappropriate and irresponsible to suggest that school money may be in jeopardy if the people don't support the Governor's toll roads," said Senator Hobson.
Governor Keating also used his news conference today to continue his misinformation campaign about his education record, touting a record school budget that was proposed by the Legislature, not the Keating administration.
"The 'friend of education' charade is really starting to wear thin, especially with those Oklahomans who are acquainted with Frank Keating's real education record.
"The fact is Governor Keating did not propose a 'record' education budget. He signed the legislative program that put significantly more money into the schools than his budget did. He's trying to take credit for the work of those lawmakers he likes to criticize so frequently," said Senator Hobson.
"The next thing you know he'll be telling us his million dollar cloud-seeding program is responsible for all the rain we've been having lately."
The Governor also blamed legislators for killing school deregulation, even though he vetoed the bill that contained that proposal.
"The school deregulation line is just another piece of fiction from the Keating file. He's trying desperately to convince people he supports public education when nothing could be further from the truth," said Senator Hobson.
Governor Keating also said today that his administration had conveyed "a message of good will and respect" to Oklahoma teachers.
"If calling teachers 'slugs' and accusing them of 'dumbing down' students is Governor Keating's idea of good will and respect, I'd hate to hear the name-calling if he was trying to show them ill will and disrespect.
"If you look at the facts and the record, it's clear that the only thing Governor Keating has shown our educators is hostility."
The Lexington legislator said he expects Governor Keating to continue his "chameleon-like performance" on education in days to come, attempting to mold himself into a public school supporter.
"As the old saying goes, Governor Keating is like a chameleon on plaid. He's trying to change his colors to blend in with popular opinion, but he's finding it a little difficult because his true colors don't match. He can't hide two years of anti-education rhetoric and record," said Senator Hobson.