OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks (D-Norman) issued the following comments in response to the report that Governor Fallin is considering calling the Legislature into special session to use “extra money” to fund a pay raise for public school teachers:
“Once again, Governor Fallin and the Republican majority in the legislature are showing how bad they are at public finance and how good they are at election year political pandering – because that is all this proposal for a special session on teacher pay raises is.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a special session to figure out what to do with the $140.8 million in ‘extra money’ the Governor’s finance team found back in June is unlawful and unnecessary. We don’t need to spend taxpayer dollars we don’t have to pass a new law to determine how and where this money should be spent. We passed a budget in May of 2015 which directed how this money was to be spent. The Governor’s finance team needs to simply re-allocate this money back to the agencies to which it was originally appropriated.
“In addition, I find the timing of this call for special session curious. To suddenly want to come to the table to pass a teacher pay raise plan in the midst of a heated campaign season where educators and parents are not only concerned but motivated and active wreaks of political pandering.
“Finally, the idea that using one-time ‘extra money’ to fund an ongoing expense like teacher salaries is fiscally unsound. To use one time money for a recurring budget item is short sighted at best and sets our teachers up for serious disappointment in the future when there isn’t more one-time money to keep funding their new, higher salaries.
“We need to address the issue of teacher pay and our ongoing teacher shortage. But, this isn’t the way to do it. If the Republicans in the legislature really cared about teachers, they would have passed a pay raise bill during the regular session. But to spend $30,000 a week for a special session to address this issue now using one-time funds is unlawful, unnecessary, inappropriate, and pandering fiscal mismanagement.”