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.
The budget includes an average $1,220 pay raise for teachers, which would bring Oklahoma to No. 1 in the region for teacher pay. An additional $74 million is going directly into the classroom to provide for the needs of our teachers and students.
With this budget, our investment in education has risen over 26% over the last two years. We’re also introducing $18 million for career tech centers to increase pay for employees and teachers, as well as $28 million for higher education to bolster research programs and provide a salary increase for professors.
We’re proposing investing $200 million into our state savings account to protect core services during difficult economic times. Our state agencies were severely cut over the years because we had no savings to keep programs going while our economy was tough.
To address criminal justice reform, our budget gives $1.5 million for the Women in Recovery diversion program and $1.7 million to address increasing demand for mental health services.
In the area of infrastructure, our budget proposes full funding for Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan. This is a comprehensive plan to repair our state’s collapsing and dilapidated roads and bridges, many of which are in rural Oklahoma.
The proposed budget also restores $30 million in funding to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Program. This is a program 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.
We are also allotting $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams, as well as $500,000 to fund a public-private partnership to maintain clean water in northeast Oklahoma and areas with high poultry density.
To grow the economy, we’re also proposing $19 million for the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund. This fund is used to help bring new businesses to Oklahoma through incentives.
The budget also includes $1 million to assist new entrepreneurs and small business innovators through the OK Center for Advancement of Science and Technology.
Our budget proposal also includes $62.8 million for Graduate Medical Education program to support physician training for rural hospitals to recruit these talented doctors to rural areas. Many rural citizens have to take time off work and travel several hours to see a high-quality physician or specialist.
Our citizens deserve capable, skilled physicians to care for them. About $5 million will also go to county health departments across the state to increase immunizations and hire new staff. Rural Oklahoma needs better healthcare, and we’re taking steps to help improve it.
We’re allotting $105 million to increase provider rates for physicians, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as $29 million saved to a new preservation fund to preserve Medicaid provider rates when the federal government’s three-year rolling average results in a rate decline. Our budget proposal also includes $10 million to decrease the Developmental Disability Services wait list and increase provider rates.
This budget meets the needs of many of our state agencies that have seen severe cuts in recent years and also many goals we set for ourselves this session.
I encourage my constituents to reach out to my office with questions or concerns about the budget and remaining bills. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.