Responsible Budget Created for Oklahoma

Legislative Update by State Rep. Mike Sanders

With the budget agreed upon and session set to end early, I thought it was about time to wrap everything up and enjoy spending a little more quality time with my wife, Nellie, and son, Davis Lee. Then I learned that the governor had removed a provision to provide for Rural Economic Action Plan funding and I knew there was still a little bit of work that needed to be done.

Fortunately, rural lawmakers have been fighting too hard to protect REAP funding to let it just slip through the cracks. Working with state Rep. Ken Miller and state Sen. Mike Johnson, the budget chairmen for their prospective chambers, we have identified a revenue source to fund the REAP program at last year’s level less a 7 percent cut that is being made to all areas of the budget except for education, roads and bridges and corrections. The revenue source will come from an existing bill that is set to increase the fine for delinquent tag renewal from $0.25 to $1 a day.

Now let’s get to the meat of the budget. I am proud to say that core functions of Oklahoma government – education, roads and bridges and corrections – were all protected. We found the money for a $40.5 million increase for public schools and a $31.6 million increase for higher education funding. The Department of Transportation is getting a slight increase and the Department of Corrections is being funded at last year’s level. As I mentioned above, other areas of the budget are being cut. The Department of Human Services will get a 1.7 percent cut. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is going to lose 2 percent of its funding. The Legislature and governor’s office are both taking cuts to their budgets as well.

The state’s budget last year was $7 billion. This year it has gone up to $7.2 billion because the state is accepting a portion of the stimulus money. Without the stimulus money, the budget would be about $6.51 billion. We are using the stimulus money in the areas of education, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees Medicaid in the state and for transportation.

Working with the governor, Republicans have been able to create a responsible budget despite shortfalls in revenue and I am pleased to be a part of that.

I would also like to mention the success of the Ten Commandments legislation that will allow private entities to place a Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds. The monument will serve as a reminder that our government system has a basis in the Ten Commandments.

In my next update, I will give you a rundown of what the Legislature has accomplished this year. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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