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Stitt asks lawmakers for $100 million to fund education during ongoing gaming dispute

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Stitt announced plans Monday to ask the state Legislature to approve using $100 million in state reserves to fund education while awaiting a court decision on tribal gaming revenue.


Roughly $130 million annually in gaming revenue goes to fund education.
But Stitt and Oklahoma’s Native American tribes are in the midst of a clash over how much gaming revenue should go to the state. Until a federal court can rule in the dispute, Stitt has asked that all 2020 gaming revenue, including the portion that would go to the state, be held in a trust neither side can touch.


So Stitt envisions the $100 million filling in, if necessary, while the gaming revenue is in question.


“While we wait for the federal court’s decision, I am calling for the Legislature to join me in protecting public education,” Stitt said during his State of the State speech Monday.


This request to set aside funds comes as Stitt has directed state agencies to lower or keep budget requests flat, as well as the state potentially seeing a decrease in available general revenue due to lower oil and natural gas prices in recent months.


“I look forward to having a conversation with the governor about the particulars of how we handle that money, but that’s still in discussion,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.


Other lawmakers were more forward about their opinions.


“When he is talking about protecting education funding and asking the Legislature to protect education funding, my response is… ‘You knew this money was going to education. You knew you would be putting it into jeopardy,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, during a press conference.


“I would call on my legislative colleagues to not let the governor have this unilateral power. To say ‘No, we build the budget, we deal with appropriations, we’re going to accept that money and end this fight.”


Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, echoed those thoughts, saying she had concerns about that much money being pulled into savings while other needs could go unmet.


“We have gotten to the point with discussions with the tribes that we never meant to get to,” Floyd said. “This has gone way too far.”

Superintendent Charles Dickinson, of Dale Public Schools, previously told The Oklahoman even a temporary disruption in tribal-gaming revenue would deal a huge blow to public schools. Dale is a rural district east of Oklahoma City near a Citizen Potawatomi Nation casino.

Related Photos
Gov. Kevin Stitt waves to the gallery as he begins his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt waves to the gallery as he begins his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-778b065206f90f588ef8fa2eaab54a86.jpg" alt="Photo - Gov. Kevin Stitt waves to the gallery as he begins his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]" title="Gov. Kevin Stitt waves to the gallery as he begins his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Gov. Kevin Stitt waves to the gallery as he begins his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Kayla Branch

Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›

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