Fund standstill frustrates many

By John Greiner Published: April 20, 2008
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School districts, the highway patrol and most other state agencies can take little comfort knowing state leaders won't be slashing their budgets this year.

The standstill budget unveiled last week for the coming fiscal year means no additional money for agencies to cope with rising operations costs that include ever-increasing fuel prices.

The Legislature has about $100 million less to appropriate than last year.

The standstill budget can't help the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which uses cars and aircraft for patrolling highways and helping people during disasters such as floods.

Neither can the standstill budget help public education, which annually faces a $25 million rise in operational costs for schools across the state.

It also won't help the Oklahoma Transportation Department, which might have to eliminate $127 million in highway projects in its eight-year construction program because of less funding.

Public Safety Department

The Department of Public Safety, which includes the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, may be affected most by fuel price hikes because it has about 1,200 vehicles.

Nearly 900 are used by the highway patrol.

The agency spent $3.8 million last fiscal year for vehicle fuel, comptroller Jerry Garcia said.

He said fuel costs could go up 18 to 22 percent this year.

Capt. Chris West, spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said twice during his career there have been mileage restrictions on trooper vehicles because of tight state budgets. But there's been none of that this year, he added.

Transportation Department

Gary Ridley, director of the state Transportation Department, said construction and fuel costs have risen 50 percent for his agency.

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How much money will agencies get?
Here are some of the appropriations in the budget agreement by state leaders:

Health Department: $74,718,113.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services: $207,429,129.

Veterans Affairs: $40,282,600.

Department of Human Services: $557,107,190.

Department of Agriculture: $33,435,185.

Department of Public Safety: $97,170,391.

Department of Corrections: $503,000,000

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