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Rainy Day Funding For Corrections, Education Clears Final Legislative Hurdle

Lawmakers gather in the House chamber at the state Capitol before Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address.
Kate Carlton Greer

Lawmakers gave final legislative approval Monday to take about $78 million from Oklahoma’s savings account to boost funding for public schools and the prison system.

The House voted to appropriate $51 million to the Department of Education, which State Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, called "vital" for the rest of the fiscal year.

“That's just another few months for this school year, so it provided a little bridge for them without having to deal with all the significant cuts that have happened to many other agencies across the state of Oklahoma,” Martin said.

The other bill directs $27.5 million to the Department of Corrections.

Prison officials have said they need the supplemental funding to pay for an estimated net increase of about 1,000 prisoners over the past year, and State Rep. John Bennett, R-Owasso, says both of Oklahoma's revenue failures led to cuts totaling about 7 percent.

"They'd already budgeted this year's money off of what we told them they were going to have,” Bennett said. “With the 7 percent cuts, it decreased them significantly. So they sent a request to us for supplemental funding to cover those bills that they already owed money on."

Some Democrats opposed the supplemental funding bill for the prisons, arguing that about $17 million is being earmarked for contract beds with private prisons.

Both bills now go to Gov. Mary Fallin's desk for her signature.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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