The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

April 13, 2007

Lawmakers frustrated with budget

No news is, well, no news, and that’s basically what local superintendents and school officials got from area legislators Friday morning regarding progress on the state budget.

“The budget is at a standstill,” said Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City. Separate appropriations bills have been passed in the Senate that fund certain agencies at the same levels the governor proposed in his budget.

However, Rep. John Enns, R-Waukomis, said he heard Gov. Brad Henry on a radio talk show Thursday say those bills would be “dead in the water” when they arrive at his desk.

All legislators in attendance at the regular breakfast meeting with superintendents Friday expressed frustration with the process. They blame Henry for not giving lawmakers more information about what he wants.

Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, said the governor has claimed he hasn’t been invited to negotiate on the budget, but “that’s not true.”

“He’s been invited a bunch,” DeWitt said.

The problem, Myers said, is the governor apparently wants minority Democrats at the negotiating table, and Myers said the minority party leaders get input on the budget but usually not a seat at the negotiating table.

Local school officials expressed concern about future pay raises for teachers and where those stand. According to the lawmakers attending Friday’s meeting, the governor’s budget calls for a $1,200 pay raise with no benefits funded, and a budget bill approved by the Legislature and vetoed by Henry called for a $600 pay raise that included funding the benefits and would flow through the school state aid formula.

What concerns school officials, like Karl White, business manager for Enid Public Schools, is pay raises that go through the formula often strap small districts when it comes to operating money.

“The problem with bumping it up again is we’re squeezing operations dollars, and something has to give,” White said.

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