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Oklahoma City – Senate Republican Floor Leader James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa, challenged Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, to bring the FY 2004 common education funding bill to the Senate floor for an immediate vote.
“The State Equalization Board has now certified its revenue estimates for FY 2004. While the budget numbers are disappointing, the numbers also underscore the importance for the legislature to fund common education first,” Williamson said.
“When Oklahoma families face a tight budget, we pay our most important bills first. It should work the same way for state government. Education is our highest priority, so let’s fund education first and take it off the table. We shouldn’t use Oklahoma’s children as bargaining chips in budget negotiations,” he said.
“If Senator Hobson will bring the FY 2004 common education funding bill to the floor, with Governor Henry’s proposed levels of funding or higher, all twenty Republican senators will support the bill. If just four Democrats will join us, Lt. Governor Fallin can break the tie and we can send the bill to the House,” stated Williamson.
“Unfortunately, Senator Hobson’s comments at the public employees rally Monday show that he has no intention to fund education first. His plan is to fund the rest of government first. Then, when there is not enough money left for education at the end, he plans to hold our children’s education hostage in an effort to increase taxes. That is just plain wrong,” he said.
“School districts across the state are already planning additional layoffs – RIFs – in anticipation of additional budget cuts. It is a stressful time for our educators and administrators. By funding education first, we can lock in education funding and help protect our schools from further budget cuts – without a tax increase,” Williamson concluded.