COMMENTARY: Giving some facts on Senate Bill 1569

I continue to get panicked emails and nasty messages about Senate Bill 1569. I try really hard not to lose my cool, but the tone and tenor of these messages is getting to me. I would really hope that those in charge of educating our children would not believe everything they read on facebook or instagram.

These completely false posts on S.B.1569 (and so many other education-related issues) have been going around for a couple of weeks, and the truth just doesn’t seem to be able to catch up with the false info. Please, I’m begging, before you get mad and decide that I’m the biggest jerk in the history of the world, check your facts.
I believe I have (a) record of supporting public education and our teachers, and the fact that many of you continue to act as if I’m the devil isn’t helping your perception with me or members of the general public who actually pay attention to how senators vote.

The facts on S.B. 1569: 

It DOES NOT move the teacher retirement fund into the general fund. Total fake news!
It isn’t a bill that was written to retaliate against the teachers because of the walkout. (It was filed in January and voted out of the Senate a few weeks before the teacher walkout even happened.)
It isn’t even a bill that is strictly about teacher retirement. It is a bill that deals with EVERY apportioned fund in the state. The teacher retirement fund is ONE of those funds. (The income tax portion of the Roads Fund is actually the largest apportioned fund and is almost twice the size of the Teacher Retirement apportionment each year.)

What [Senate Bill 1569] really does:

During good years, S/B.1569 has no effect at all. The only time this bill does anything is if/when we have a year where Oklahoma’s economy is in trouble. In years where the State Board of Equalization determines that the state brought in less tax money than the year before, S.B. 1569 kicks in to try to give the legislature the ability to do a better job of minimizing damage than we have done in the past. Basically, if the state’s income is 1 person lower next year than it was this year, then 1 percent of the money flowing into each of these apportioned funds (including teacher retirement) will be moved into the “State Budget Enhancement Fund” and the legislature will be allowed to budget those funds as appropriate.
It is possible that some or all of that 1 percent will be put into the fund it came from. It is possible that it won’t. The whole purpose is to give the legislature a little more flexibility in bad financial times. In this example 99 percent of the money that should be going to the apportioned fund will still go to the apportioned fund. Only 1 percent could POSSIBLY be diverted.

If S.B. 1569 would have been in effect during the last few years, the legislature would have been able to do a better job of protecting some of the core functions of our government from taking the massive cuts that they have taken. The fact that less than 50 percent of the money that our state spends is actually appropriated by the legislature means that, in bad years, the legislature has significantly less options on how to survive the crisis than most would think. S.B. 1569 gives the legislature a little more flexibility during the bad years.

I hope all of that makes sense, and I hope it helps fact catch up with the growing fiction. Any time you discuss state funding streams it gets really complex really fast. Trying to simplify it for facebook isn’t an easy thing. This bill does not rob teacher retirement.
(By the way, the Teacher Retirement Fund is more healthy today that it has EVER been in the history of our state because of the decisions made by the Republicans that have been in charge for the past 11 years, but that’s a whole other story.)
If this bill actually robbed teacher retirement, I would have never voted for it. The fact that so many who I have known for years assumed the worst because of a facebook post is disappointing, but such is life I guess.

NOTE: Elected to the state Senate in 2016, McCortney is an Ada Republican. He represents Senate District 13 (Garvin, Hughes, Pontotoc, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties) at the state Capitol. CapitolBeatOK adapted this commentary from his recent post on his Facebook page.