At Tuesday’s community forum Dr. Joe Sciano, associate executive director of the Oklahoma State School Board Association, faced off with Cordon Dekock, the vice president of public affairs for the Oklahoma State Chamber, about SQ 800 which would amend the state constitution to create the Oklahoma Vision Fund.
 If passed, five percent of existing tax revenue from oil and natural gas would be placed into an investment fund
managed by the state treasurer. The amount would increase by .2 percent every year. The income from this fund would then be placed in the state’s general revenue fund to supplement and stabilize the state budget.
Sciano, who is opposed to the question, said that both the Oklahoma State School Board Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma Schools oppose the proposed fund.
“We’re opposed for a number of reasons,” Sciano said. “One being the state already has two reserve funds — the rainy day fund and a revenue stabilization fund which is a brand new established fund.”
Their other concerns have to do with the timing, with Scaino saying that they feel there is still too much work to be done within education before another savings account is created.
“We have taken a first step in moving forward in terms of education,” Sciano said. He pointed out that the teacher pay raise helped, and added that he finds it troubling that SQ 800 would take the GPT dedicated funding to schools and move it into a savings fund.
“While savings are important, we are struggling in education. We need to fix the challenges facing us now before worrying about creating another savings fund,” Sciano said, adding that the SQ offers no replacement options for those funds, so everyone would be left wondering how the legislature could close the funding gap.
Dekock supports the question, describing it as part of a long-term investment in the future to grow and stabilize the state budget.
“Had this been passed in 1990, the last time we had a teacher walk out, this year it would have been enough money to avoid a budget crunch,” Dekock said.
He said the ultimate goal of the Oklahoma Vision fund is to create a self-sustaining resource that will lead to a more stable source of budgeting than the current system which is based on tax revenues from oil and gas. He went on to say that every year the fund would get an increasingly larger share of the revenue generated from oil and natural gas taxes.
“The number will increase by .2 percent per year,” Dekock said. “The first year it will be five percent. The second year it will be 5.2 percent.” The state chamber believes that over time this increase will create a self-sustaining financial mechanism, which is the fund’s goal.
“We want this to be a much bigger input into the budget than the oil and gas revenue itself, “ Dekock said. “That’s how we get away from all of those ups and downs.”