Historical Society Surprised by Fallin Budget

Feb 5, 2014

The Oklahoma Historical Society is among five state agencies Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed consolidating into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. OTRD would receive less funding under Fallin's proposed budget than the six agencies get altogether now.
Credit Oklahoma Historical Society

Gov. Mary Fallin's proposed budget includes a big change for a handful of agencies, including the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The historical society, Oklahoma Arts Council, J.M. Davis Memorial Commission, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission would be consolidated into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. 

Historical society executive director Bob Blackburn said they haven't yet had a chance to figure out how the change might affect major projects because they didn't know anything about Fallin's proposal until she presented it Monday.

"We are going full-speed ahead with seeking legislative support for the OK Pop Museum, because we need an institutional home in Tulsa to serve the people of Tulsa better," Blackburn said.

The OTRD would get $35.9 million from the state — $3.7 million less than those six agencies get altogether now. The historical society currently gets half of its budget — $12.5 million — from the state. More than 70 percent of the agency's total budget goes toward museum and historical site programs.

Blackburn said he has no room for layoffs within his staff, with all of his managers actively working on preservation programs or fundraising.

"If you eliminate those positions, you're standing still," Blackburn said. "So where do the cuts come from? Well, obviously, you would eliminate programs. So which programs would be eliminated would be the big question."

Blackburn said they're willing to work with the state but were completely surprised by the proposal.