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House Sends $7.5B Oklahoma Budget To Governor

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland
Both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature have passed the largest budget in state history, in unadjusted dollars.

Oklahoma’s $7.5 billion budget is on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk after passing the House 63–31 this afternoon.

The spending bill assumes oil will stay around $53 a barrel for the next 12 months and natural gas will stay around $2.99 per thousand cubic feet. House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace was asked whether budgets should be based on more stable revenue, like income and sales taxes.

"We can always have discussions next year of better ways to fund government, but, currently, I think it is in place, it’s in line, it’s balanced, the numbers are certified," Wallace said. "But we all do know we’re an oil and gas state, so the next time the economy crashes in oil and gas, it will affect this state’s budget."

The budget is the largest in Oklahoma history in unadjusted dollars. House Democrats said with Oklahoma’s population also at an all-time high, the budget hasn’t increased enough to reverse the impact of cuts to services over the past decade.

Rep. Jason Dunnington said the budget is especially too thin when it comes to helping children.

"Are we OK with one in five children in Oklahoma that live in poverty that are food insecure? What about 67 percent of kids in the fourth grade not proficient in reading?" Dunnington said.

The budget includes $2.9 billion for education, an almost 20 percent increase from last year. But Rep. Scott Inman said adjusted for inflation, that’s $32 million less than 10 years ago.

"Shouldn’t that number, as opposed to some sort of arbitrary percentage after you’ve already cut $4 billion worth of tax cuts and exemptions over the last decade — that number should be more important," Inman said.

Democrats said the legislature is rushing the budget and asked to continue working on it. Republicans said it’s the best budget state revenue allows.

It’s now up to Governor Fallin to sign, veto or line-item veto the budget.

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Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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