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Oklahoma leaders agree on budget, most will see cuts

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) –Governor Mary Fallin, Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman have reached an agreement on the fiscal year 2017 budget.

The proposed budget still needs to be passed by the Oklahoma Legislature, but the proposal sets appropriations at $6.78 billion, which is five percent, or $360.7 million, less that fiscal year 2016 before the mid-year revenue failure.

The budget deficit Oklahoma faced was the largest in the state’s history at $1.3 billion. The deficit meant public schools and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority faced reduced state aid by 20-25 percent.

“Thankfully, those worst-case scenarios can be averted by passing this budget,” said Gov. Fallin in an email. “This agreement closes a sizable portion of a monumental budget hole and prevents the dire, unacceptable outcomes so many Oklahomans have feared may happen this session. There are still reductions in this budget, and it requires more hard votes to pass, but it is certainly a workable budget even amid a major energy sector downturn that is creating difficulties all across Oklahoma. We worked hard to protect key core services - common education, health and human services, corrections, mental health services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority – while keeping our eight-year transportation infrastructure plan intact.”

A majority of state agencies saw a reduction of one to ten percent, but others grew by more than 180 percent.

Education

Education will see a 6.37 percent drop in funding compared to the originally budgeted amount for fiscal year 2016. The State Arts Council and Oklahoma Educational Television Authority were reduced by 16.3 percent. The State Department of Education was reduced by 2.34 percent, down to $2,426,721,434 for fiscal year 2017. The total budgeted amount for education is $3,399,643,387.

General Government and Transportation

General government and transportation will see a 10.25 percent drop in funding, but not everything is being reduced. The budget for the Oklahoma Tax Commission is being increased by 2.17 percent to $44,336,000. The State Election Board will see an increase of 4.33 percent to $7,893,267. However, the Legislative Service Bureau will see the largest increase of 183.94 percent to $13,892,835. The State Auditor and Inspector, Oklahoma State Treasurer, Governor, Lt. Governor, State Ethics Commission, Office of Civil Emergency Management, Merit Protection Commission, Space Industry Development Authority and the Office of the State Bond Advisor are all being reduced by 11.65 percent.

Health and Human Services

Health and Human Services will see a modest decrease of 2.2 percent. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is the only HHS department with a larger budget over last year, their budget is being increased by 2.06 percent to $991,050,514. The Department of Veteran Affairs, Office of Disability Concerns, Commission on Children and Youth and the Department of Rehabilitative Services will see a reduction by more than 11 percent.

The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse will start out with a smaller budget than they were originally allotted for fiscal year 2016, but their budget was increased by $6.9 million over the adjusted budget amount mid-year.

Natural Resources and Regulatory Services

Overall, the NRR will see a reduction of 11.02 percent. Included in the reduction is the total budgetary removal of the Insurance Commissioner, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. The Department of Tourism and Recreation, Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Resources Board, Department of Labor, Horse Racing Commission and the Department of Mines will see an 11.65 percent reduction.

Public Safety and Judiciary

While Public Safety and Judiciary will see a 3.96 percent reduction, an agreement will maintain the Department of Correction’s full appropriation of $484,900,943 and the state will annualize a $27.6 million appropriation. Additionally, the Court of Criminal Appeals will maintain their $3,630,199 budget.

The Department of Public Safety, District Attorneys and District Attorneys Council, OBN and ABLE will see a reduction of more than 11 percent to their budget.

“The absence of various revenue measures required deeper reductions to higher education and transportation in order to avoid truly unacceptable funding levels for K-12 schools and hospitals,” said Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger in an email. “Transportation and higher education have superior financial positions compared to the rest of government and can absorb reductions far better than common education and health care could. In fact, transportation has said no projects will be significantly altered under this plan, and higher education has already implemented several cost-cutting measures in anticipation of reduced funding. These were difficult decisions, but they had to be made when faced with a challenge of this magnitude.”

Legislators say the budget can be passed before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline.

You can see a breakdown of the budget here, and a budget summary here.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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