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Oklahoma senators pass budget for state agencies

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Senate lawmakers have passed a general appropriations bill for next year's budget.

Senate Bill 1600, authored by Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner and Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, appropriates more than $7 billion to state agencies. It passed the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 36 to 8 on Wednesday.

Part of that budget includes $2.9 billion for the Department of Education, $165 million for the Department of Transportation, $1.1 billion for the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, $729 million for the Department of Human Services and $517 million for the Department of Corrections. The Department of Mental Health and & Substance Abuse would be appropriated $325 million.

According to David, this is the largest budget in the state's history.

"There are no cuts to any agency," David said on the floor. "I believe this body has fought tooth and nail over the last 16 months to get money for education and no one can say that we haven’t done that."

Even so, there were concerns from some Senate lawmakers prior to the bill's passage. Under the bill, District Courts would be appropriated about $54 million.

"Do we have a plan in place to be able to get the courts back up to 100 percent so that they can do the business of the people?" said Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.

Supporters of the bill including Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City admitted the bill wasn't perfect, however she told the floor it was a step forward.

"This is the first year I have been in this building that we’ve been able to give those agencies that deserve it a raise," Bice said. "Educators get a raise. Mental health and substance abuse workers will benefit from this."

Meanwhile, opponents of the bill argued it was a rush deal and not enough had been done to vet the concerns.

"We do that with every bill over a three-, four-month period. It seems like the most important bill that we pass of the year should receive more than 18 hours," said Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman.

The bill will be heard on Friday in the House.