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Governor, Oklahoma lawmakers reach deal on budget

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: January 27, 2010 at 6:47 am •  Published: January 27, 2010
A combination of targeted cuts, tapping the state’s savings account and federal stimulus funds will be used to balance this fiscal year’s budget, the governor and legislative leaders announced Tuesday.

The monthly allocation for most state agencies will continue to be reduced by 10 percent through June, the end of the fiscal year.

Some agencies will be spared 10 percent cuts.

A handful of agencies in education, health and public safety will subsequently receive additional appropriations to supplement their budgets this year and decrease their share of the overall reduction, according to the agreement. As part of the pact, priority status was assigned to public schools, higher education, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and prisons. Each will receive a supplemental appropriation.

Even with that action, every state agency will receive some level of targeted cuts for the current fiscal year.

"Given the magnitude of the crisis we face, there really were no good options available to us,” Gov. Brad Henry said.

House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa; Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R- Oklahoma City, and Henry also agreed to use the Rainy Day Fund and state stimulus funds to help balance the budget.

The state has about $600 million of federal stimulus funds still available and about $600 million in the Rainy Day Fund. Capitol Bureau Blog

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Governor wants increase in state's savings account

With Oklahoma in the midst of its worst budget crisis in modern history, Gov. Brad Henry again is pushing to increase the capacity of the state’s savings account.

The Democratic governor said Tuesday he will ask the Republican-led Legislature to expand the Rainy Day Fund, a proposal he suggested in 2006. Legislators showed little interest in the idea then because the state enjoyed a robust economy.

"You can never go wrong by depositing more money in your savings account,” Henry said.

The Oklahoma Constitution limits the fund to 10 percent of general revenue receipts.

Henry wants the cap raised to 15 percent. If legislators approve the idea, it would go to a vote of the people because it would be a constitutional amendment.

Henry said had legislators and lawmakers approved the measure in 2006 and the fund had been filled to capacity each year, the state would have almost $900 million in the Rainy Day Fund. Nearly $600 million is in the fund now.



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