OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin announced she will not be supporting a proposed bond issue to pay for storm shelters in every Oklahoma school.
The proposal calls for using franchise tax revenue to pay for the $500 million needed to install shelters or safe rooms in Oklahoma schools.
Many students believe this is not a Democrat or Republican issue but an Oklahoma goal; to keep our children safe.
“It’s pretty terrifying,” said Annastacia Langthorn, President of the Young Democrats of Oklahoma. “Over the last few months, we’ve been having this conversation where we know in Oklahoma there are tornadoes. Every single year we have a tornado and it goes roughly through the same area, through Moore and south Oklahoma City.”
Leading Republicans who support Gov. Fallin say they are not questioning the need for storm shelters but rather how to pay for them.
“We could give individuals and/or corporations the ability to donate to a storm shelter for a particular school district and, in so doing, give them a tax credit for that,” said, Dave Weston, State Chairman for Oklahoma. “We don’t have to just always run and borrow money to meet every need.”
Some leaders say using the franchise tax would divert money from the general fund that could be used for other needs, such as education and public safety.
Supporters of Gov. Fallin also say building storm shelters should be a decision that each individual school district makes.
Weston said, “If they want to borrow the money to go and establish a storm shelter, then that should be their decision but we shouldn’t force that down upon them.”
A survey released last week said that nearly 60 percent of Oklahoma schools have no safe space for students and employees to take shelter from severe weather.
Langthorn said, “It’s ridiculous to me and almost reprehensible that our leaders haven’t stepped up and said ‘There’s a risk, there’s a threat. What are we doing against this threat?”
Once the ballot language is approved by the attorney general, supporters have 90 days to gather 155,000 signatures of registered voters to get storm shelters in schools placed on the ballot.
The Young Democrats of Oklahoma will be helping to collect signatures.