Senate and House budget committees pass new budget bill

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Lawmakers in two budget committees passed a bill Tuesday involving cuts per agency.

House Bill 1019 is a revised general appropriations bill. It passed the House budget committee 17-13 and the Senate budget committee 7-5.

Under House Bill 1019, millions would be used from rainy funds, carryover cash from last year, and revolving money. It also includes a recently passed House bill which  would raise the gross production tax on older wells.

There would be no changes to certain agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Rehabilitation Services and K-12 education.

The Ethics Commission, House of Representatives, Senate, Governor, Lt. governor and Department of Tourism would be among those which would take a 2.5 percent cut. Veterans Affairs would be subject to a 2.7 percent cut.

Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City questioned how the agencies were prioritized and which ones were considered “core” ones while Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma spoke in support during the budget committee meeting.

“I personally cannot, in good conscious, leave cash in the bank, and look at my constituents and tell them I’m canceling their adult daycare, I’m canceling their advantage waiver services, I’m canceling their in home services,” Echols said.

Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang spoke in opposition, saying a vote in support would drag the state in a precipice it cannot come back from.

“Jobs will not stay, because there will be no quality of life, where we are 50th in teacher pay… 50th in educational outcomes,” Osborn said.

Even if this bill were to be signed into law, DHS, Mental Health Services and the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority would still stand lose between $4-15 million, however Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston insisted it was still better than the alternative.

“Taking no action or voting no today will end up with major, major cuts to those three agencies. I, for one, am not willing to do that,” Wallace said.

With passage in the House and Senate budget committees, the bill now heads to the full chambers for consideration.

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