McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

May 22, 2014

Oklahoma State Senate approves $7.1B budget bill

The Oklahoma Senate overwhelmingly approved a $7.1 billion budget bill on Tuesday that will fund the state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Senate voted 31-9 for the bill, which was worked out last week in a deal between the Senate, House and governor’s office. The measure now moves to the House for final consideration.

The bill would appropriate about $102 million less than the current budget, but would still boost funding for public schools by $80 million.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman described the budget as a “fiscally responsible” one that protects core areas of state government like education, public safety and transportation.

“Despite a $188 million budget shortfall, we were able to utilize some one-time funds in various agency revolving funds to give supplemental funding to high-need agencies,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “This helped us bridge the gap in a down budget year without growing government or increasing ongoing expenses in years to come.

“We also preserved our state’s Rainy Day fund for a true

emergency, should one arise.”

Under the bill, most state agencies will receive cuts averaging 5.5 percent.

The additional $80 million for public schools includes $40 million for increased health care costs and $40 million directly to schools through the state funding formula. Local school districts will also receive a $25 million supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year for reimbursement of taxes on property that is exempt from local taxation.

The budget agreement announced last week also includes an agreement on a $120 million, 10-year bond issue to repair and renovate the nearly 100-year-old state Capitol building, but that plan will be included in a separate measure.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on May 30, but House and Senate leaders have said they hope to adjourn by Friday.

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