The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $7.1 billion state appropriations bill that allocates about $80 million in new revenue for common education and $37.1 million for targeted pay raises to some of the state’s most underpaid state employees.
The bill will now go to the governor.
Many state agencies will receive 5.5 percent budget reductions, but some agencies came out out much better.
The state Department of Human Services will receive a $44 million budget increase, which includes $36 million to fund the third year of a child welfare improvement plan called the Pinnacle Plan. That plan is part of a settlement agreement to a federal class-action lawsuit alleging maltreatment of children in state custody.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will receive $4.6 million for trooper pay raises, the Corrections Department will receive $5 million to give raises to corrections employees and $20 million is set aside for raises for state employees who are the most underpaid compared with private sector salaries.
Higher education received a flat budget.
“Faced with a revenue shortfall, tough decisions had to be made,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. “Much like a family sets household budget priorities, we moved forward with a budget that emphasized core government services like education and the vital role of public safety and human services protecting our state’s most vulnerable.”
Not all House members were happy with the budget.
“If you stuck a gun to my head and said, ‘You have to vote for this budget or else,’ I would tell you to pull the trigger,” said state Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “This is incredibly deceptive. We’re deceiving the public. It’s irresponsible to take all this one-time money and use it on recurring expenses.”
“This House absolutely refuses ... to address the tax credits in this state, the incentives, the exemptions or the excesses in state government,” Dank said.
State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, called the budget “irresponsible” and “indefensible.”
“The measure of an enlightened society is how we treat those in the dawn of life, those in the twilight of life and those in the shadows of life,” Morrissette said, quoting an unnamed citizen. “This budget fails on all three counts.”
House Appropriations Chairman Scott Martin, R-Norman, disagreed.
“I’m extremely proud of the product we put together,” Martin said, adding he believes the budget does a good job of reflecting the top priorities of state House members.