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Oklahoma could have a state budget deal soon, negotiators say

A budget deal could be struck soon on a $7 billion spending package for the state of Oklahoma for the upcoming fiscal year, negotiators say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 29, 2013
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Doerflinger said he is hopeful to get $46 million of new money to pay for recommended changes in a five-year plan to improve child welfare operations at the Department of Human Services. The plan is part of an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit.

“It's just a matter of keeping DHS at the forefront and realizing that we're under the settlement agreement,” he said.

Doerflinger, who served several months last year as interim director of DHS and worked on finalizing the Pinnacle Plan, said the plan originally called for an additional $30 million for the 2014 fiscal year, which is in the second year of the plan.

The plan called for legislators to appropriate $30 million in funding each of the first two years. Lawmakers last year appropriated $25 million. The plan among other things calls for hiring more child welfare workers, recruiting more foster parents and moving away from caring for abused and neglected children at shelters.

Doerflinger said the agency needs at least $40 million in extra money in the upcoming fiscal year to allow changes to occur more quickly than expected as well as reduce an increased allocation for the third year of the plan, from an additional $20 million to $12 million.

“It starts to get slippery if we're not around that $40 million number to continue the efforts that have been started under the Pinnacle Plan,” Doerflinger said.

Fallin's budget proposal also calls for an additional $40 million to pick up Medicaid costs for about 61,000 Oklahomans who are eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled in the health care program.

Fallin also is seeking an additional $16 million for state mental health services, which would be used to pay for a third community crisis center in the state and beef up funding of programs intended to reduce suicide and prescription drug abuse.

Fallin also wants money to go to a program that helps children and families with children who are suffering serious emotional issues.

Lawmakers have passed bills calling for pay increases for state troopers and corrections officers, which are under discussion, as are bonuses for state workers who have gone at least two years without an increase in pay.


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