MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

October 1, 2013

Fallin opposes bond issue for school shelters over repayment method

She opposes way debt would be repaid

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A proposed bond issue to pay for storm shelters in every Oklahoma school won’t have the support of Gov. Mary Fallin if the measure makes it to the ballot.

The proposal calls for using franchise tax revenue to retire the $500 million debt needed to install shelters or safe rooms in Oklahoma schools.

“I am not sure that is the best way of doing it,” Fallin said, adding that the addition of storm shelters should be a local decision, not mandated by the state.

Spokesman Alex Weintz told the Tulsa World that Fallin would respect the decision if the measure makes it on the ballot and is approved.

“It’s important for people to understand, however, that funding storm shelters or safe rooms in every school is an expensive proposition,” Weintz said.

Once the ballot language is given final approval by the attorney general, supporters have 90 days to gather about 155,000 signatures of registered voters.

A survey released last week by the measure’s backers said that nearly 60 percent of Oklahoma schools have no safe space for students and employees to shelter from severe weather.

The ballot proposal, backed by Rep. Joe Dorman, came about after seven students died at a Moore elementary school during the May 20 tornado. Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said he’s not surprised Fallin came out against the proposal.

“She certainly doesn’t want to alienate people in the party that are opposed to this,” Dorman said.

Weintz noted that using the franchise tax would divert money from the general fund that could be used for other needs, such as education, public safety and health care.

“But if the people of Oklahoma are asked on a ballot initiative to support the project, they are really being asked to spend less on other important initiatives, including possibly those that benefit the safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children,” Weintz said.

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