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May 17, 2014

Deal reached on state budget

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders announced a budget agreement Friday for the upcoming year that is $102 million less than the budget for the current year, but still increases funding for public schools by $80 million.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes targeted spending cuts and taps the accounts of several state agencies to close a $188 million shortfall — but avoids cuts to priority areas like public safety, higher education and mental health.

“This is a responsible, realistic budget that makes tough, necessary cuts while adequately funding core government services,” Fallin said. “Still, in a year with $188 million less to appropriate, we must continue to ask agencies to focus on eliminating waste and operating more efficiently.”

The $80 million increase to public schools brings the total increase in education funding to $154 million in the past two fiscal years.

“We have gone to extraordinary lengths — even with a sluggish revenue year — to add substantial new resources to common education in Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “The $80 million increase in K-12 funding shows that we are committed to supporting our teachers and improving education for Oklahoma children, even during tough budget times.”

The agreement increases the Department of Human Services budget by $44.6 million to continue sufficient funding of the Pinnacle Plan, the multiyear program aimed at improving the state’s child welfare services, and other initiatives.

It also includes $36.8 million for pay raises for 12,378 state employees, including corrections workers, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, child welfare workers and the employees identified as the state’s most underpaid according to a recent comprehensive employee compensation study.

The agreement would also authorize $110 million in supplemental funding for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to provide property tax reimbursement to local school districts, reduce provider rate cuts and service interruptions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, address operational needs at the Department of Corrections, continue drought relief efforts and maintain state property assets.

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