OK Senate passes budget bill

OK Senate passes budget bill

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO)- The Oklahoma Senate passed a budget bill Wednesday night with a vote of 33-13.

Just over $21 million will be added to the Department of Education. That only covers health insurance costs so that budget will stay flat and it does not include a teacher pay raise.

Education leaders are speaking out against the state's budget plan.

El Reno's superintendent says while the current plan has a "flat" budget for education, that doesn't necessarily mean there will be no cuts in school districts. He says in his district, six teaching positions have yet to be filled, and won't be able to be filled as a result of the flat budget.

"That money can't go to the future. The future would have been making our class size at 20 to 18 instead of making a class size at 25," said El Reno Schools Superintendent Craig McVay.

The Oklahoma State School Boards Association says under the budget, schools will face $20-million more in teacher health care cost, meaning hiring teachers would be nearly impossible.

The Department of Corrections and the Department of Transportation also stay flat. The Department of Public Safety, on the other hand, will see an extra $6 million in its budget. Every other agency will face at least 3.5 percent cut.

All six Democratic senators voted against the bill Wednesday night. The bill is expected to go to state House today for a vote, where it is doubtful if any of 26 Democrats in the House will vote for the bill.

Part of the budget includes a $1.50 fee on cigarettes. Backers say not only will the bill help provide revenue for the state, but that it may also reduce the number of people smoking. Opponents say it may be unconstitutional because it was pitched after revenue raising bills were required to be filed last week.

"The constitution is very clear. It says the legislature thou may not raise revenue in the last five days," said Sen. John Sparks.

The bill provides a large portion of the money in the $6.8 billion spending plan that's headed to the House today.

Critics have also said the bills to raise revenue did not receive a three-fourth's majority vote that is required of tax-raising measures.

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