OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposal to let the people of Oklahoma decide whether to have a statewide lottery to fund education will face its first hurdle tomorrow, and the Senate author is asking the public's help in getting in passed.
"We know the states with the highest amounts of college graduates are the ones with the highest average incomes. With this source of revenue, we can help make sure every Oklahoma student who wants to continue their education can go to on to college or a technical center for free," explained Senator Brad Henry.
However the Shawnee Democrat is concerned that while the public has shown a great deal of interest in the proposal, there may be some hesitation on the part of the legislature.
"The fact is other states have highly successful lotteries that have resulted in millions of new dollars for education. I think we should give the public a chance to have their say on this," said Henry.
Senator Henry said his proposal is based on the Georgia lottery, which produces $2 billion a year. He said a similar program here could produce an estimated $500 million a year, which could fund college scholarships, early childhood programs, capitol improvements and more technology in the classroom.
"Clearly this is an option that has tremendous potential. But we need the people of this state to let lawmakers know they want the opportunity to decide this issue for themselves," said Henry.
The lottery proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 24, will have its first test on Wednesday, February 14th at 2 p.m. when the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education will vote on the measure.
"If the public would like a chance to vote on a lottery as a way to create more revenue for education, they need to let the legislature know. I'd urge everyone who is interested to let the committee members as well as their own legislators know that they want them to vote yes on SJR 24," said Henry.
The committee members include Chairman Cal Hobson, Vice-Chairman Mike Morgan, Johnnie Crutchfield, Glen Coffee, Ted Fisher, Charles Ford, Robert Milacek, Mark Snyder and Penny Williams. Members of the Senate can be reached by calling (405) 524-0126.
"This is just the first of many hurdles SJR 24 will face, but it has to clear this one to stay alive," explained Henry. "Who knows how many Oklahoma dollars are going to lotteries in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado or New Mexico. It just makes good sense to let Oklahoma school
children get the benefit from those dollars that are currently going to kids in those other states," said Henry.