NORMAN — Over the course of the legislative session, the crafting of the state budget is the biggest task we face each spring.
As chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, I am a part of that process every step of the way.
It’s daunting, but it is rewarding to be working on the ground floor of what will become next year’s budget. I work with an incredible budget team of fellow legislators and fiscal staff.
I’m happy to report to you that the budget for Fiscal Year 2014 has been agreed to by the governor’s office and leadership in the state House and state Senate. In other words, a deal is in place to operate our state in the upcoming year and has come weeks earlier than normal.
In addition to being completed early, I’m proud that it is fiscally conservative while providing increases where resources are most needed, such as education, transportation, health, child welfare and infrastructure.
The budget for FY 2014 is slated at $7.1 billion.
It should be fully passed out of the legislature soon and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin later this month.
While there are many aspects of this budget I like, I am especially happy that education funding was protected and advanced.
The field saw a targeted increase to the tune of $91 million for common education — 43 percent of the growth revenue we had to budget this year.
Historically, common education is about 35 percent of our entire state budget.
Also included is a $33 million increase for higher education and $3 million more for career tech funding.
More than half of all the new growth revenue, nearly 60 percent, is going to education. That’s important as Oklahoma’s tomorrow is nurtured in today’s classrooms.
Other targeted increases include:
· $40 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to support programs such as SoonerCare
· $1.2 million to the Department of Health in support of Veteran Center inspections and infant mortality reduction initiatives
· $17.4 million for the Department of Mental Health and Substance to support programs related to suicide prevention, prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment, and school safety
· $44 million for the Department of Human Services to support continued implementation of the Pinnacle Plan and reduction of the waiting list for services related to individuals with developmental disabilities
· $30 million to the State Buildings Revolving Fund to address aging infrastructure across our state
· $120 million for repairs and renovations of the state Capitol
Keep in mind that, with this fiscal year budget plan, that appropriations to state agencies are held flat or targeted increases to core state services are provided for.
The $7.1 billion budget takes into consideration recent budget cuts due to the national recession and inflationary cost increases.
Most importantly, we’ve come to an agreement on a budget without taking on additional debt. This budget is balanced, delivered on time and is focused on the fundamental priorities this state needs to thrive.
Scott Martin serves District 46 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at 557-7329 or via email at email@example.com.