This session has been dramatically different than most since I’ve been in office. Revenues have been steadily increasing for more than a year and this week, we approved the largest budget in state history.
The $8.3 billion budget includes pay raises for our hardworking teachers and state employees, a 5% revenue increase for vital state services, $200 million in savings and much more. You can find all the details on our website (www.oksenate.gov).
Education is and always will be Oklahoma’s priority, and it’s evident in the budget. Altogether, public education (common ed, higher ed and career techs) account for nearly 52% of the state budget. Teachers will get a $1,220 raise that will bring Oklahoma to No. 1 in the region for pay.
The Reading Sufficiency Act will be fully funded for the first time since its creation. A significant investment — $74 million-plus — will also be made to allow local school districts to hire more teachers and other staff or address other critical needs.
Higher education ($28 million) and career techs ($18 million) will also get additional funding for faculty pay raises and research programs.
Our dedicated state employees will also get a raise of up to $1,500 based on their current salary.
In the last few years, we’ve worked to modernize state government and make it more efficient. This budget continues those efforts by providing funding to digitize services, which will enhance both transparency and efficiency. The new Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) will also be created next year and additional auditors hired to improve transparency of agency budgets for both the Legislature and public.
This session, we’ve also been focused on reforming our criminal justice system while protecting public safety. We’re getting smart on crime by addressing the issues that land nonviolent offenders behind bars.
We’ll be investing in more mental health services and diversion programs to help these individuals get back to their families and into the workforce. So many return to a life of crime because they’re drowning in fees and fines after being released.
One thing we did to help in that area is give the District Attorney’s offices $20 million to lessen their dependence on those other sources of revenue.
We’re improving public safety by funding two new trooper academies that will put around 80 more troopers on Oklahoma’s roads next year. We also are providing a 14% pay increase ($2 an hour) to our correctional officers who work in our prison system.
These are critical jobs and we need to do all we can to increase staffing rates and lower turnover rates to ensure the safety of our prisons.
Improving healthcare, especially in rural Oklahoma, has always been a priority for me, and I’m excited to say that a major investment will be made to increase provider rates for physicians, nursing homes and hospitals as well as for Developmental Disability Services (DDS). Funding is also being provided to decrease the DDS waiting list.
Another major concern has been Medicaid provider rates. This budget will preserve those using a new preservation fund when the federal government’s three-year rolling average decreases rates. The Graduate Medical Education program, which trains doctors to work in rural hospitals, will also receive a much-needed infusion of funding.
As we work toward becoming a Top 10 state, we must continually work to improve our transportation infrastructure, which affects everything from business to tourism. This budget fully funds ODOT’s eight-year plan and restores $30 million to the CIRB Fund for county roads.
Part of the budget agreement is a public-private partnership to protect clean water in our part of the state and others where poultry operations are prevalent. It also includes funding for rural firefighters, wildfire mitigation and rural flood control dams.
Finally, investments will be made into the Quick Action Closing Fund to provide more business recruitment opportunities as well as into key industries, like automotive and aerospace, to create more jobs and support further economic development.
This budget was a labor of love and compromise to take full advantage of our strong economy and make it even better for Oklahomans. We’ll be rolling out more details in the coming week.
I welcome and appreciate any comments or questions you might have for me. At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Sen. Kim David, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 421, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at email@example.com, or by calling (405) 521-5590 and speaking to my assistant Gayla Guinn.