OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) -The fight over Native American gaming continues.
Gov. Kevin Stitt is now calling for state funds to be set aside in order to cover the state’s education budget in case the battle over the Native American gaming compact lingers in court and there is a disruption in Class 3 gaming exclusivity payments.
“I think the governor has put himself in a position where all he wants right now is to win and it’s a win for him, not the state of Oklahoma,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Emily Virgin.
During his State of the State Address, Gov. Stittt addressed the fight that is currently sitting in federal court.
“Unfortunately, we have an expired model gaming compact,” said Stitt.
With tribal leaders looking on, the governor calling for legislators to put over $100 million aside in this year’s budget for education. He says that money would be used to cover the funds the state would normally receive in exclusivity fees from tribal gaming.
“I also remain confident the State and Oklahoma’s tribes can hammer out a compromise that is a win-win for all 4 million Oklahomans, and we can accomplish this without putting public education in the cross hairs,” said Stitt.
“You knew that this money went to education. You knew that you were going to be putting it into jeopardy and now we are in a situation where we have to figure out what we are going to do with that tribal compact payment. Governor, you should have thought about that when you picked an unwinnable fight over the summer,” said Virgin.
Tribal gaming officials weighed in and Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association chairman Matthew L. Morgan released the following statement:
“The Tribes will continue to remit the revenue-shares due and owing under our renewed compacts. It is unfortunate to see Governor Stitt tie himself and the State budget in knots as he continues his refusal to acknowledge the plain terms of the agreement the State offered Tribes 15 years ago. We stand with Oklahoma teachers and are proud of our contribution to Oklahoma common education.”
“I’m trying to let the courts decide it,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat.
Senate Republicans wonder if the state agrees to take funds, does that constitute a tacit agreement that the original compact is still in place?
“At the end of the day, the Oklahoma State Senate is going to protect public education and make sure that funding is secure,” said Treat.
No matter what happens to the funds, Senate Democrats say state relations with the tribes will never be the same.
“Once it got to court, I think we hit a point where it’s gonna do very serious damage to our long-term relationships with the tribes,” said Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd.