The Edmond Sun
OKLA. CITY —
Gov. Mary Fallin agreed with legislative leaders Thursday on a budget deal for Fiscal Year 2014. The budget blueprint targets funding increases to education and health, child welfare and infrastructure.
Fallin negotiated the $7.2 billion budget with House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, and Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. FY14 state appropriations are a 4.1 percent increase above FY13.
“Today’s budget deal holds the line on spending for most agencies, and continues to reinforce the idea that state government must operate more efficiently and effectively, not simply ask taxpayers to write a larger check,” Fallin said.
Education and health services are quality of life and economic issues, Fallin said. A healthy, educated workforce is vital for job creation and economic growth, she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage said the Republican-led budget asks hard-working school teachers and administrators to do more with less.
“While the Republicans who put this deal together will tout the ‘increased funding’ to education in this budget over last year, education is still getting $200 million less than they did in 2008,” Burrage said.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi said she appreciates the $91 million additional commitment to common education and the promise to fund education reforms.
“Unfortunately, this does not meet all of the needs of school districts or account for the growing population of students in the state in total,” Barresi said. “We are thankful, however, that common education is a priority of our lawmakers. Historically, common education gets about 35 percent of the state budget. With this budget deal, we received 43 percent of the new money available.”
Bingman said the budget makes progress in caring for the state’s most vulnerable children. The budget agreement is a conservative approach to core government services, Shannon said.
The budget includes $44 million for the Department of Human Services to support operations, including the implementation of the court-ordered Pinnacle Plan and the reduction of the waiting list for services offered to individuals with developmental disabilities.
“We are extremely grateful to Gov. Fallin and the Legislature for their strong support of our funding priorities, which include improvements to our foster care system, addressing the waiting list for developmental disabilities services, and rate increases for our aging and developmental disabilities providers,” said Ed Lake, Oklahoma Department of Human Services director.
The budget deal also makes the state a better steward of the people’s infrastructure by taking a step forward to maintain and repair state buildings, Shannon said. Details of the FY14 budget deal include:
• $30 million to maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund and $60 million for repairs and renovation of the State Capitol;
• $91 million for common education, including: $74 million in FY 2014 to support reform efforts and get more resources into classrooms; a $17 million supplemental for common education to fund teacher health benefits and other costs in FY 2013;
• $33 million for higher education and $3 million for Career Technology to support operations and the goal of awarding more degrees and career certificates;
• $40 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to support operations, including Sooner Care;
• $1.2 million for the Department of Health to support infant mortality reduction initiatives and to implement new inspections of long-term care facilities for veterans;
• $17.4 million for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to support initiatives including suicide prevention, prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment, counseling for children with mental illnesses and “smart on crime” initiatives like the Justice Reinvestment Act.
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