By Rep. Mike Sanders
The Oklahoma Board of Equalization met this week to certify revenue available for the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget. The board projected we will have a $167 million gap between what was appropriated for FY18 and what will be available for FY19. That is so much better than the $800 million gap the governor predicted in November, and that amount can be made up by using cash already on hand. In addition, we still have several months before we must sign an appropriations bill for FY19, and that gives more time for revenue to continue to improve.
In January, we entered the second year of positive revenue growth for the state with gross receipts to the treasury up 12 of the past 13 months and up 15 percent for January and 7.5 percent for the year. Hiring continues to be up, and most sectors of the economy continue to show improvement.
This revenue picture gives us hope of accomplishing our continued push for a teacher pay raise.
This week, the House passed three bills in special session to help us close out the FY18 budget. We’ve been working on this budget for more than a year, and we simply had to complete it and more toward the future. The first bill appropriates money for state agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year, cutting less than 1 percent from all budgets. The second bill directs the Department of Human Services to fully fund the ADvantage Home Waiver and other home-bound health services for the elderly and disabled adults as well as senior nutrition programs and foster care. The third bill supplements federal funding cuts to our physicians’ training programs at the state’s medical colleges. Once these bills pass the Senate and are signed by the governor, we can end our second special session and focus solely on the regular session and the FY19 budget.
In other news, House Bill 3330, which I authored, passed the House with a vote of 87-0. This bill adds family home child care centers to the list of places protected from sexual predators. These people will now not be able to move within 2,000 square feet of these facilities. These smaller child care centers were inadvertently left off the list of protected places when the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act was signed into law several years ago. This new law will protect children and childcare workers.
I also co-authored House Bill 1340, which should be heard soon on the House floor. This bill will pay a stipend to our state retirees, including teachers, firemen, police, highway patrol troopers and others. This benefit will help our retirees with cost of living increases while maintaining the adequacy of their respective retirement funds. I appreciate the service of these dedicated retirees, and this bill is a way to show them support.
I’ll keep you updated on these and other measures as they move through the legislative process.