New state budget sent to governor includes money for clean water, dams and rural firefighters

The $8.1 billion budget approved by the Senate on Tuesday and sent to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt includes money for rural Oklahoma, areas where the state’s oil and gas industry drills for new energy.

The budget includes $500,000 to fund a public-private partnership to maintain clean water in Northeast Oklahoma and areas with high poultry density. It’s an area near the popular Illinois River where residents have fought an expansion of poultry operations.

The budget will provide $1.1 million for wildfire mitigation and more resources for rural fire fighters. Another $1.5 million will go toward improvement of rural flood control dams. It raises the question of whether legislators wonder this week if they should have increased the amount due to the statewide flooding.

The Senate voted 37-11 to approve the Fiscal Year 2020 budget bill which was labeled House Bill 2765.

“This is a tremendous budget for Oklahoma because it makes huge investments in our classrooms, gives teachers and state employees another significant pay raise, puts money toward criminal justice reforms, and saves $200 million to help in the event of an economic downturn in the future,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “Senate Republicans kept our commitment to invest in education by appropriating $74.4 million for our classrooms. We also addressed our priority to fund criminal justice reforms. The budget also shows fiscal restraint because we’re putting away $200 million in savings, bringing the state’s total amount of savings to $1 billion. I want to thank Senator Roger Thompson, the Senate appropriations chairman, for his hard work, skill, and leadership in crafting this budget deal. I also want to commend the senators who chaired Senate appropriations subcommittee for sharpening their pencils and helping put together a great budget.”

The budget now goes to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk for consideration.

“Tough choices by the Legislature in recent years put our state in a much better financial position, and because of those decisions we had nearly $600 million in new funding to appropriate. This budget makes great use of those dollars by making a $157.9 million investment in public schools, which includes $74.4 million into our classrooms so local schools can hire more teachers to lower class sizes or purchase classroom supplies. Overall, this is a great budget that makes significant investments in critical services while saving $200 million to help when the inevitable economic downturn hits in the future. I want to thank the Senate appropriations subcommittee chairs who did a tremendous job in delving into the numbers to help us come up with a great budget deal,” said Senator Roger Thompson, R-Okemah.

Among the highlights of the FY’2020 budget include:

  • $200 million in savings to help Oklahoma weather a financial crisis; Oklahoma’s total savings at the end of this year will be $1 billion
  • EDUCATION
    • $157.9 million for common education:
      • $1,220 teacher pay raise on average, second-consecutive year for a teacher pay raise.
      • $5.5 million for the Reading Sufficiency Act.
      • An additional $74.4 million for classroom funding for schools to hire additional teachers to lower class sizes, hire counselors or other support staff, or purchase classroom supplies.
    • $18 million for the CareerTech system for pay raises and course additions.
    • $28 million for higher education to bolster research programs and provide a professor pay raise.
    • $7.5 million for concurrent enrollment
  • GOVERNMENT MODERNIZATION
    • $37.7 million for a state employee pay raise of up to $1,400, the second-consecutive year for a state employee pay raise.
    • $1.7 million for the creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT)
    • $16.4 million for digital transformation of state government services to enhance transparency and to improve customer service.
    • $700,000 to hire more auditors for the State Auditor’s Office to conduct more audits of state agencies.
  • CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS
    • $20.1 million to reform the funding of District Attorney offices.
    • $10 million for “Smart on Crime” programs through the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
    • $1.5 million for the Women in Recovery diversion program.
    • $1.7 million to expand drug courts options for nonviolent offenders.
  • HEALTH CARE
    • $62.8 million for Graduate Medical Education program to support physician training.
    • $105 million reallocation to increase provider rates for physicians, hospitals and nursing homes.
    • $29 million saved to a new preservation fund to preserve Medicaid provider rates when the federal government’s 3-year rolling average results in a rate decline.
    • $2 million to decrease Developmental Disability Services (DDSD) wait list.
    • $8 million to increase DDSD provider reimbursement rates by 4 percent.
    • $4.6 million to increase immunizations and staff county health departments throughout the state.

 

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