A Reasonable Budget

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

We will soon have the opportunity to vote on the appropriation legislation that will create the budget that will begin in July 2014. The final budget proposal represents the best effort of House leaders to represent their membership in negotiations with the governor and Senate leaders. We did not get every dollar amount we aimed for and there was plenty we might have preferred to do away with, but the end result was no growth in non-core service spending and targeted increases for education, health, child welfare and infrastructure needs.

Education funding included a $17 million supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year to cover teacher health benefits and other costs. We also appropriated an increase of $74 million for Fiscal Year 2014. Higher education received an increase of $33 million and CareerTech received an increase of $3 million.

As Oklahoma will not be participating in the Medicaid expansion, we did appropriate some increases to help maintain state programs such as Sooner Care, infant mortality reduction initiatives and inspections for long-term care facilities for veterans. Oklahoma has made great strides in infant mortality reduction. It is one of the shining stars for our state, which ranks more poorly in other health areas. Most of us have been strongly committed to addressing abuse and neglect that has taken place at the state’s long-term care veteran centers.

Transportation funding was held at the level needed to keep up with the eight-year plan for the repair and maintenance of state roads and bridges. This is a top priority in many rural communities and serves to both ensure public safety and support economic growth.

Money was also appropriated to begin work on repairing the Oklahoma State Capitol. The governor has also signed a bill to address the building’s repair needs and begin work on an eight-year plan for all state assets that will include the liquidation of unused assets.

I was among lawmakers who strongly advocated for pay raises for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers. We are continuing to work on getting those raises accomplished. I hope we can get something done before session ends. These highly trained brave men and woman deserve a raise after so many years and the troopers are dwindling because of recruitment issues related to pay. I continue to be hopeful that we can get raises approved as they are critical to maintaining this essential arm of law enforcement.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at (405) 557-7407 or emails me at mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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