Lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion budget nearly one month before the 2018 legislative session is scheduled to end. eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley says it’s the largest budget in Oklahoma history in dollar terms. But on a per-capita basis, state agencies will receive less than they did in 2009.
“Senate Appropriations Chair Kim Davis noted that per capita basis is important because it is to the citizens of the state of Oklahoma that these funds are ultimately providing services,” Ashley said.
Funding may not be fully restored, but Ashley said many agencies will see their budgets increase from current levels.
“A number of agencies involved in the healthcare field see some of the money that they have lost not just in the past year but over several previous years restored,” Ashley said.
Another notable appropriation is the $11 million going to criminal justice. However, it will not allow the Department of Corrections to move forward with its plans to build two new prisons.
Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to sign the budget into law, but lawmakers still have a number of policy issues to address before May 25.
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Dick Pryor: Shawn, on Wednesday the Senate passed a seven point six billion dollar appropriations bill and the House passed it on Friday.
Shawn Ashley: That's right. The bill now heads to the governor, who is said to be in agreement with the various spending priorities outlined in this bill. This bill mimics some of what we've seen coming out of the special session and working through the regular session in terms of providing pay raises to teachers to state employees and to education support personnel throughout the rest of the budget. There is no agency that receives a reduction in its appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year. And in some cases agencies get a bit more money to meet some of their obligations and responsibilities.
Pryor: That is remarkable that most agencies would receive some kind of an increase. Who stands to get the most?
Ashley: Well it depends on how you look at it. A number of agencies involved in the health care field see some of the money that they have lost not just in the past year but over several previous years restored in order to make sure that nursing homes remain open and that various health care providers see some of the reductions that have taken place in their provider fees restored. There is also approximately 11 million dollars going to support the criminal justice reform efforts that have been approved, as well as some money going into education. It's some growth but not as much as others had hoped for.
Pryor: Some agencies made large requests for additional funding and they're likely to come away somewhat disappointed.
Ashley: That's true in a large number of cases almost every one of these appropriations is a standstill budget. Once you back out the money related to the state employee pay freezes and the education pay raises the Department of Corrections, for example, had asked for a one billion dollar increase in its budget part of which is to build two new prisons. Not only did they not receive the additional one billion dollars, but, at this point, there's no plan, online to build those additional prisons.
Ashley: The same can be said for almost every other agency. While there is some growth some recovery it does not bring the state back up to where it was several years ago. And, in fact, Senate Appropriations Chair Kim Davis pointed out that, if you look at this budget which on paper is the largest in terms of dollars-- seven point six billion dollars, on a per-capita basis it is less than what agencies were receiving in 2009. And she noted that per capita basis is important because it is to the citizens of the state of Oklahoma that these funds are ultimately providing services.
Pryor: It appears there is less reliance on agency savings accounts called revolving funds to provide one time budget fixes. So how were they able to find enough money besides appropriating additional dollars for education?
Pryor: Well much of the additional money in this budget comes from House Bill 1010 double X, which was approved during the special legislative session. They have also tapped a number of cash sources, in fact one time money. But what is unique about this budget is that in 2019 it turns around and pays that money back.
It's cash that's needed for the ad valorem reimbursement fund that helps out school districts in areas where there are many fracturing firms that take advantage of the manufacturing ad valorem tax credit. This will allow the schools to be paid. But it also pays back the funds from which the money is being borrowed.
Pryor: Shawn, it seems legislators are serious about ending the session early. By law they must be finished by May 25 this year. But it looks like it could be considerably sooner.
Ashley: In order to do that they have a lot of work to be done. But keep in mind we probably will not see them adjourn formally sine die. What they want to do is leave the session open in the event the governor vetoes a piece of legislation that they want to come back and attempt to override or some other issue develops which they need to address.
The Senate President Pro Tem Schulz said lawmakers would likely take up a resolution that outlines how the process would work for the remainder of the month after May 4. We very well may not see them on the floor of the House and the Senate and then on May 25 the legislative session would automatically adjourn.
Pryor: All right John thanks.
Ashley: You're very welcome.
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