OK Senate approves budget, awaiting decision by Governor Stitt

OK Senate approves budget, awaiting decision by Governor Stitt

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - After both the Oklahoma House and Senate approved an 8 Billion dollar spending plan, it now awaits a signature from Governor Kevin Stitt.

Public Education in Oklahoma will see a large chunk of money in two forms, first in a formula that will be split among schools across the state, and second, in a 1200 teacher pay raise.

Elgin Superintendent Nate Meraz said the plans they’ve had for this money will finally be put into action.

“We’re still working on getting our class sizes down, now we can also focus and turn our attention towards to some different areas, like counselors for example, that’s an area that’s been neglected just because of funds,” said Meraz.

Meraz said this will make their lives much easier, but they still can’t go out and solve every problem.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, it’s a lot better than the way we’ve been feeling. We just got a class graduated, we are ready to get the new started and get our staffing straightened out,” said Meraz.

Another group expected to see a pay raise is state employees, which will be covered by nearly 38 million, included in the spending plan.

“We love our community and helping the people of Oklahoma, and for our legislators and governor to take that into consideration and be like, you know what, here’s a raise on us, it’s always a plus,” said Aviva Harvey, the DHS operating assistant.

Harvey said she and the rest of her team are thankful, and that this raise will encourage more people to work for the state, not just with DHS but in all state agencies.

Criminal justice reform is also projected to see a boost in funding, but a criminal attorney in Lawton said this money alone can’t solve the wide range of problems in the criminal justice system.

“It helps for something but it doesn’t solve the problems. Our recidivism rate is huge, of people coming back," said attorney Ken Sue Doerfel.

She says it's a good sign that the state is making this a priority, but the problem this money needs to address is helping the released inmates have a chance when they enter back into the real world.

“They think letting people out of prison is the answer, it’s not, its what happens when they get out, now what. We have a few programs inside prison, but it’s no where close to what we need," said Doerfel.

Rep. Daniel Pae of Lawton said the decision to add 200 million dollars into the rainy day fund will help in case Oklahoma sees a severe economic downturn. He said it’s imperative to make prudent decisions when it comes to increasing our savings.

Representative Pae said he anticipates the governor’s signature this week.

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