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February 4, 2014

Gov. Fallin proposes tax cut, bond programs during Legislative address

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

State government also is responsible for preserving its state buildings and assets, Fallin said. The state Capitol has become a safety hazard as the exterior crumbles, she said. Its yellow barriers outside are an embarrassing eyesore, and the electrical system is dangerously outdated, she said.

“You guys, the water stains that you see on the walls downstairs — I have bad news for you — that’s not just water. It’s raw sewage that is leaking down to our basement,” Fallin said.

A bond issue is the best and most realistic way to accomplish repairs of the state Capitol, she said as House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, applauded. Last session, Fallin signed legislation that coupled state Capitol repairs with tax cuts. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional because legislation is only supposed to deal with one subject.

“The bond issue cannot come at a better time,” Fallin said. “Interest rates are low and, most importantly … 41 percent of the state’s bond indebtedness will come off the books by 2018, and over 86 percent will be eliminated over the next 13 budget years.”

In addition, Fallin said Oklahoma’s schools are being made stronger and safer. The two elementary schools that were decimated by 2013 tornadoes in Moore are being rebuilt with safe rooms.

Oklahoma is challenged to provide safety in all of its schools, Fallin said. So the Office of Emergency Management is conducting voluntary safety assessments when a school district makes a request.

“Next, we need to act to ensure our schools have the means to pay for those upgrades,” Fallin said.

The governor said she supports a constitutional amendment allowing every school district to pursue a one-time increase in bonding capacity to fund storm shelters, safe rooms and protections from dangerous intruders. Local control is the best way to allow school districts to make critical decisions on safety needs, she said.

“We aren’t forcing new taxes on Oklahoma families or businesses,” she said. “We aren’t passing new mandates, but, most importantly, we are making our schools safer.”

 

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