© 2024 KGOU
Oklahoma sunset
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers to appropriate $13.9 Billion in next state budget

Oklahoma State Capitol
Oklahoma State Capitol

When they return to the Capitol in February, Oklahoma legislators will have $1.3 Billion more to appropriate in the fiscal year 2025 budget than they did last year.


Announcer: Capitol Insider, sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Physicians dedicated to providing and increasing access to health care for all Oklahomans. More on the vision and mission of OSMA at okmed.org.

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy, and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, it's been a couple of weeks since our last Capitol news update. So, we should start with the State Board of Equalization meeting that occurred just before Christmas. The Equalization Board certified funds available for appropriation in this year's legislative session, and it's about $1.3 billion more than legislators had last year. What caused that increase?

Shawn Ashley: It's really a combination of things. First, the state has a lot of cash on hand. Fiscal year 2023 general revenue fund collections, for example, exceeded the estimate by $1.9 billion. Some of that money went into the Rainy Day Fund, but the fund hit its constitutional cap. So, the remainder is cash that is available for appropriation. There is also cash carried forward from previous fiscal years. Combined, that's about $2.4 billion. Second, revenue collections generally continue to rise. Governor Kevin Stitt noted recurring revenue for fiscal year 2025 will be around $11 billion, and that's a new high.

Dick Pryor: So where is the extra money going to go?

Shawn Ashley: That's the question lawmakers are addressing right now in budget hearings that will be held through the remainder of January. They will hear state agencies’ funding requests and decide how to divide up that money, which agencies get more and which get less. Governor Stitt said the increase, particularly in recurring revenue, is a reason he wants to see lawmakers approve an individual income tax rate cut.

Dick Pryor: Yeah, Governor Stitt wants to call legislators back to the Capitol for a special session before the regular session begins on February 5th to pass a tax cut. Why would he do that? And is there any sentiment supporting a special session among legislative leaders?

Shawn Ashley: Stitt said, “I would like to get another tax cut done before we go back into regular session so it's not all jumbled up with all the policy things.” Now, House Speaker Charles McCall already has filed a series of bills for consideration in the regular session that propose income tax reductions. But Senate leaders still have yet to embrace the idea. Governor Stitt said he planned to call McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat during the Christmas holidays to see if they would be willing to come back for that special session. I suspect the fact that the first week of January has passed and Stitt has not formally called lawmakers back is rather telling, however.

Dick Pryor: Bill filing is well underway and one of the latest ones filed is interesting. It would allow school districts to create phone-free schools. Tell us about that.

Shawn Ashley: Senator Ally Siefried’s Senate Bill 1321 would provide grant funding for up to nine middle or high schools to cover the cost associated for the sites going cell phone free during the duration of the school day. Siefried said a Rutgers University study showed that removing cell phones from the classroom increased students’ test scores by almost 7%, and doubled that rate for low achieving students. The pilot, Siefried said, will demonstrate how outcomes can change when students aren't thinking about who's messaging them, liking their social media post, or any other related distractions.

Dick Pryor: The session begins, as we mentioned earlier, on February 5th. What's going on at the Capitol right now, during the month of January, leading up to that time, say, for the next couple of weeks?

Shawn Ashley: Of course, the budget hearings are taking place, but the big focus is on bill filing. Lawmakers have until January 18th to file measures to be considered during the 2024 regular session. The Senate’s filed several hundred bills. The House has only filed a handful, and a couple of thousand bills will be filed when all is said and done. So, there's a lot of work left yet to do.

Dick Pryor: That is true. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org and look for Capitol Insider where you get podcasts. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Announcer: Capitol Insider, sponsored by United for Oklahoma. Tribal Nations building unity and economic strength to benefit all Oklahomans. More at unitedforoklahoma.com. Oklahoma thrives together.

KGOU produces journalism in the public interest, which is critical to an informed electorate. Listeners like you provide essential funding for Capitol Insider. Make your contribution at www.kgou.org.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November 2016.
Heard on KGOU
Support public radio: accessible, informative, enlightening. Give now.