Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

State News

January 30, 2014

Fallin endorses plan for school storm shelters and safe rooms

Proposal lets local governments raise debt limits

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — Gov. Mary Fallin endorsed a proposal Wednesday that would enable voters to weigh in on efforts to improve school safety and grant school districts a one-time increase in local bond limits to pay for storm shelters, safe rooms or other upgrades.

Local governments are limited in how much debt they can carry. The governor suggested a statewide vote on whether to allow districts a one-time chance to increase the limit as long as the money raised is used to improve school safety.

“These are important projects, and there needs to be a solution to that,” Fallin said. “There are many school districts that need our help, and we want to help provide that help.”

Fallin made the comment during The Associated Press’ Legislative Forum, a gathering of statehouse leaders held annually before each legislative session.

Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman, who is considering running for governor against Fallin, has proposed a $500 million state bond issue to help schools pay for shelters. Dorman’s proposal is supported by some parents whose children died when a tornado tore into Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore last spring.

But the governor said that wouldn’t be enough money to pay for the roughly 1,100 school buildings across Oklahoma without safe rooms. Fallin also said Dorman’s proposal would be of little help to the 700 schools who already have installed safe rooms.

“There are schools that may already have safe rooms that may want to look at other safety needs and evaluate those,” she said, suggesting bulletproof glass or metal detectors.

Also during the forum, Fallin and Republican leaders in the House and Senate reiterated their support for cutting the state’s income tax. But both the governor and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman suggested that the state would need to come up with ways to offset the roughly $120 million annual price tag for a .25 percent reduction in the income tax.

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