Board: Oklahoma lawmakers to have $574 million more for state’s next budget

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Legislature will have $574 million more to appropriate for the state's next budget.

On Wednesday morning, the State Board of Equalization certified about $8.2 billion in state revenue. It equates to an increase of $574 million over the current year.

During a presentation, the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services noted it was down 0.5 percent from the $612.3 million initially certified in December.

"Falling gas prices have affected the projection for the current fiscal year for gross production in gas in a negative manner and increased oil prices over what we had expected in December have increased oil projection and the oil price," said Shelly Paulk, Deputy Budget Director for Revenue at OMES.

The board is chaired by Gov. Kevin Stitt, who said $237 million of the revenue must be dedicated to existing financial obligations.

"That’s 100 million or so, is reimbursement to local counties for ad valorem reimbursements, a lot of that around the wind tax credits," Stitt said. "$60 million is around the medical education programs that we’re required to spend that the federal government used to spend."

Stitt also called for an additional $200 million to be saved in event of an economic downturn and stressed for $60 million to be dedicated to a $1,200 pay raise per teacher.

"I am responsible for running these state agencies so, before we put anymore money in increased, ongoing expenses, I want to make sure we have the right accountability. That’s what I’ve told Oklahomans. That’s what I plan on doing," he said. "So, once we get to agency accountability, then there’s $77 million left over that we can talk about with the legislature on how we appropriate that. What needs? And, what moves the needle in our state."

Speaking with reporters after the presentation, Stitt acknowledged the teacher shortage crisis occurring nationwide including Oklahoma.

"That’s why I’ve also called for 5 million to match with local funds. It’s going to be $5,000 per teacher to recruit new teachers into the profession," he said. "We need to put a little more money into the recruitment of new teachers, getting them to stay in our state coming out of schools."

Last week, a House committee passed House Bill 1780, which would provide a $1,200 pay raise to public school teachers. It has not reached the House floor yet.

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