The last few weeks have seen a packed schedule of committee meetings, budget and policy discussions and floor votes. Last Wednesday, the Board of Equalization announced a $575 million surplus to put toward the fiscal year 2020 budget. This number is a great indication of how well our economy is doing right now, but we must be cautious.
Our state’s economy is so dependent on the oil and gas industry, which fluctuates year to year. Until we diversify our economy, we can’t keep spending every dime our state brings in. We need to save more money for the future so that when our oil-dependent economy inevitably downturns, we won’t have to cut core government services like we’ve seen over the last several years. Normal, everyday families have to balance their budget while also saving for the future—our state should do the same.
Also last week, the House passed the second teacher pay raise in two years. House Bill 1780 funds a $1,200 across-the-board pay increase for public school teachers in the classroom in addition to last year’s historic increase. Our state has a severe shortage of qualified teachers, and House Republicans are working to address this issue. I believe HB1780 will help Oklahoma compete with our neighboring states so that we can bring in the best and brightest teachers in the region. HB1780 helps move us closer to that goal. This raise was a top priority in Gov. Stitt’s platform and I’m glad the House unanimously voted to support the bill.
This Thursday was the legislative deadline to pass House bills out of committee, the first step in the legislative process and necessary to making bills eligible to be heard on the House floor. I presented HB2511 before the Appropriations & Budget Committee on Wednesday. This bill is a request from the Oklahoma Film & Music Office and places an emphasis on the film and music industry in Oklahoma. Given Guthrie’s active role in this industry in our state, I was proud to serve as an author on the bill and am pleased it passed the first step of the legislative process unanimously.
Our next deadline is March 14, when bills must be passed out of the chamber they originated in to proceed through the legislative process. Until then, we’ll continue to meet on the floor to hear and debate bills that passed committee. I’m looking forward to presenting my bill on the House floor in the coming weeks.
Things have been busy at the Capitol, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve the community of District 31. Please reach out to my office with any questions, comments or concerns.