Governor Fallin, lawmakers propose tapping into Rainy Day Fund for education, Department of Corrections

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OKLAHOMA - Governor Mary Fallin said she is now ready to tap the Rainy Day Fund.

Fallin is proposing using the state’s savings account to offset those massive budget cuts for education.

This will deal with the shortfalls in the 2016 fiscal year.

The governor has suggested using $51 million from the Rainy Day Fund for public schools.

She’s also suggesting another $21 million be used for the Department of Corrections.

In a statement, Fallin said:

"Four-day school weeks and draconian cuts at prisons are not acceptable and are not going to happen. The deepened revenue failure cuts have changed the budget situation in a way that requires immediate action, so I support accessing the Rainy Day Fund for common education and prisons. This is the most responsible option available today to keep vital state services at acceptable levels until the Legislature and I reach agreement on the recurring revenues necessary to fund these services in the long run.

We must put recurring revenues on the table this session, like I proposed in my executive budget, or we will be having this same problem next year, the year after that and years after that. The Rainy Day Fund option is a one-time fix, but we need to do the tough work to establish a permanent fix in the budget we pass this session."

Lawmakers have been in talks this past week about using the Rainy Day Fund for education after schools have lost $110 million in immediate cuts since the beginning of the year.

Educators across the state have been looking at every option to trim their own budgets, hoping the state would tap into the Rainy Day Fund.

At Bethany Public Schools, for example, the district relies on state funds for 65 percent of its budget.

“We do not have a lot of local wealth, a high tax base in Bethany so, whenever we do receive a reduction in funding, it does affect Bethany Public Schools, so these rounds of cuts are affecting us in ways that we had not planned or anticipated,” said Dr. Kent Shellenberger.

“You’ve got this pool in the Rainy Day Fund of hundreds of millions of dollars, and you could save it for the next fiscal year, this $1.3 billion dollar shortfall, and that’s not a bad idea, but we also have this current crisis schools in my district, like Bethany, facing schools across the state,” said Sen. David Holt.

The state is still looking at a $1.3 billion dollar shortfall for 2017.

Lawmakers will be working on that for the next few months.

For now, the House and Senate will consider the plan to use the Rainy Day Fund.

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