New state budget is lower by 1 percent

Gov. Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and House Speaker Jeff Hickman agreed on a new state budget for fiscal year 2016 for $7,138,920,521, which is $74,300,000.00 (1 percent) less than this year.

They agreed on the budget for common education – in light of a $611 million budget shortfall for this fiscal year. Falling oil prices are partially to blame for the drop in expected state revenue.

More than 50 percent of all state tax dollars go to education.

Other agencies that got increases or were saved from cuts include the Department of Corrections, Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, State Department of Health and Office of Juvenile Affairs, and others.

Additionally, the agreement preserves the funding necessary to maintain the state’s current eight-year transportation plan and county government’s five-year road and bridge plan. It also appropriates $15.9 million to the Department of Human Services to fully fund FY 2016 Pinnacle Plan costs.

Under the plan, 49 agencies receive funding cuts ranging from 0.75 percent to 7.25 percent, eight agencies receive appropriation increases and 12 agencies receive flat appropriations.

The budget plan takes $150,000,000.00 from the Rainy  Day Fund and grabs $125,200,000.00 from agency revolving funds. It includes additional revenue from other state accounts, cutting payments and raising  new tax revenue by “reducing tax fraud and collecting past due taxes.”

“In a year with a $611 million budget hole, this agreement takes extraordinary steps to shield common education, our largest and one of our most important expenses, from budget cuts,” Fallin said. “Under this budget agreement, approximately 51 cents of every dollar appropriated by state government will continue to go toward education.”

Bingman said spending cuts and redistribution of revenue were key parts of the process.

“The Senate this year emphasized a more comprehensive examination of state spending to identify efficiencies, and structural reforms to give the Legislature greater flexibility in the appropriations process,” Bingman said. “We have also been meeting with state agencies for months in a collaborative effort to consider how they might be able to operate more efficiently in anticipation of these necessary cuts. This budget reflects our commitment to fiscal responsibility, while adequately funding core services.”

Hickman said the budget protects road and bridge funding.

“To have a budget which makes no cuts to our public schools, protects our Eight-Year-Plan for safer roads and bridges in Oklahoma, continues our investment in critical reforms at DHS, and preserves public safety with dollars redirected to the critical needs in juvenile affairs and the crisis in our state prisons, is a tremendous achievement with the funding issues we faced,” Hickman said.

Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation, said common education will get almost 35 percent of the funding.

“It is vital to our state’s future that we continue to prioritize our infrastructure, especially our roads and bridges, so we can continue our economic momentum,” Loveless said.