The Norman Transcript

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January 30, 2013

Education funding will be in Capitol spotlight this session, lawmakers say

NORMAN — Education may move to the head of the line for the expected $200 million in new funding that will greet Oklahoma lawmakers when they return to the Capitol next week.

Four Norman legislators — two Democrats and two Republicans — listened to the Norman Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda and shared their thoughts on the upcoming session at a standing-room only breakfast Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“There seems to be this loud chorus around the Capitol for more education funding,” said state Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman. “We’ve passed lots of reforms so now we need to fund them.”

Martin, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said he was excited about the session and believes Oklahoma’s economy has recovered from the recession. The rainy day fund, once down to $2.50, has been replenished.

Republicans, he said, have developed a strategic plan that will be unveiled at the Capitol today. Gov. Mary Fallin will give her State of the State address to lawmakers on Monday. Common education officials are seeking a $300 million increase and higher education wants an additional $97.4 million.

Martin said he expects the governor to seek a reduction in state income taxes, something that she failed to get passed this past session.

“I think we’re going to see a more moderate proposal from the governor, a smaller cut,” Martin said.

Chamber president John Woods presented lawmakers with the 10 general topic areas agreed upon by the chamber’s board and government affairs committee headed by former Mayor Bob Thompson.

Martin said long-delayed structural repairs at the Capitol might cost $150 million but needed to be done. He called the situation “embarrassing” for lawmakers, employees and visitors to the Capitol. The repairs will likely extend to many state properties.

“And we’ve got plenty of them in Norman,” Martin said. “I’m hopeful we can come to a solution. That’s going to be tops on my list.”

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