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Oklahoma Senate approves $7.1 billion budget bill

Eight Oklahoman Republicans join 12 Democrats to oppose the $7.1 billion spending bill. It now goes to the governor for final approval.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: May 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm •  Published: May 14, 2013

The state's $7.1 billion budget bill cleared its last legislative hurdle Tuesday and is on its way to Gov. Mary Fallin for expected final approval.

The Senate voted 28-20 to pass House Bill 2301, with eight Republicans joining 12 Democrats to vote against the budget measure for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It needed 25 votes to pass; Republicans control the Senate 36-12.

Fallin could act on the measure by the end of the week.

The House of Representatives voted 59-40 last week to pass the measure. Twelve Republicans joined 28 Democrats to oppose the measure.

No Democrat in either chamber voted for the bill.

Most of those asking questions about the measure complained that additional money could have gone to core services.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Clark Jolley defended the bill, saying the budget targeted funding increases for core government services.

“This budget represents a conservative approach to limit the growth of government while still investing in teaching in the classroom, in child welfare and our infrastructure management,” said Jolley, R-Edmond. “We know we need to see increased dollars go to kids in the classroom, and we must press forward with monumental reforms to our child welfare services. These are fundamental core services, and this budget fulfills our most important commitments.”

Several Republicans grumbled about $30 million being appropriated to the Long Range Planning Commission, which is being reorganized and will be responsible for state buildings.

Sens. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Cliff Aldridge, R-Choctaw, said they are concerned some money could go to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, which has stalled because of lack of funding to finish the project.

The center has benefited from three previous state bond issues totaling $63 million, as well as $14.5 million in federal funding and $4.9 million and 250 acres of land from Oklahoma City. A bill authorizing a $40 million bond issue for the center failed by one vote last year in the Senate. A growing number of legislators are leery about increasing the state's bond indebtedness.

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