Saying it's time to do something big for Oklahoma, education and economic development, Senator Brad Henry is preparing to take his proposal for a statewide lottery vote to the full Senate Floor.
SJR 40 cleared a major hurdle late Wednesday when it received the approval of the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
"Obviously I'm very pleased with this vote, but we still have a ways to go. The bottom line is we have a tremendous opportunity to give every one in the state who meets the admission requirements the chance to go to college on scholarships funded through a lottery program. I want to stress that I'm not asking legislators to vote for a lottery, but to vote to let the people of Oklahoma decide this issue," said Henry, D-Shawnee, principal author of SJR 40.
In addition to funding Oklahoma's Hope Scholarship Program, Henry said funds raised through the lottery would be used for early childhood programs, capital improvements for public schools, and for education employees' health insurance.
"This would be a major economic development tool for Oklahoma. States with the highest per capita incomes also have the highest numbers of college graduates. By fully funding Oklahoma's Hope Scholarship program, we can help literally hundreds of thousands more Oklahomans go to college," explained Henry. "Once Georgia fully funded its Hope Scholarship program, they produced 525 thousand new graduates. We can have that kind of success here."
Henry said 38 states and the District of Columbia currently have lotteries, including every state bordering Oklahoma except Arkansas.
He also stressed the commission that would oversee the lottery would be completely under the state's Open Records and Open Meetings Acts, and that the legislature would be unable to touch the funds raised by the lottery.
"We've stipulated that these funds would be used to supplement education resources, so that no current general revenue appropriations would be decreased," said Henry.
"The only other way we could do all the things for education that a lottery would allow us to do is through a significant tax hike, and that simply is not going to happen. This gives us the chance to do some great things for Oklahoma," said Henry.
SJR 40 now heads to the full Senate for a vote.