With the end of session drawing closer, I joined my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor to announce our budget agreement on Wednesday. This year’s historic budget is fiscally responsible and well-thought out. We’re accomplishing a lot this year without introducing any new taxes!
Education remains a top priority for us. The budget includes an average $1,220 pay raise for teachers, which would bring Oklahoma to number one in the region for teacher pay. An additional $74 million will go directly into the classroom to provide for the needs of our teachers and students. With this budget, the investment in education has risen over 26% over the last two years.
We’re also proposing $18 million for career tech centers to increase pay for employees and teachers, as well as $28 million for higher education to better our research programs and provide a salary increase for professors.
Our budget also deposits $200 million into our state savings account, which puts Oklahoma on the path to storing two months of expenses to protect core services in difficult times. One reason why state agencies were cut so severely over the last few years was because Oklahoma didn’t have money saved up to help sustain programs when our economy suffered. As a state that relies heavily on our fluctuating oil and gas industry, it’s essential that we have a plan in place to protect our agencies and citizens the next time our economy takes a hit.
The proposed budget also restores $30 million in funding to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Program. This is a program through ODOT that constructs or repairs county roads or bridges on the county highway system, which is completed in five year phrases in counties across the state.
The budget also appropriates $20 million to reform the funding of District Attorney offices. This session, I authored several criminal justice reform bills to help the Dept. of Corrections save money. House Bill 2009 reduces the sentence length for a second offense, which would save DOC nearly $60 a day per inmate. The second bill, House Bill 1100 reduces sentences for certain crimes, which could also reduce costs for DOC.
Now that we have a budget agreement, we’ve begun to hear and debate portions of the budget on the House floor. The Legislature is required to adjourn by the last Friday in May, and I’m optimistic that we’ll meet that deadline.
Between budget meetings, I had the chance to introduce the boys golf team from Guthrie High School on the House floor on Thursday. These students secured the 5A state championship for the second year in a row! Guthrie is incredibly proud of these students; their talent and dedication will continue to take them far in life.
I encourage my District 31 constituents to contact my office with questions or comments on legislation. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the House!