Oklahoma lawmakers release $6.8 billion budget plan

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OKLAHOMA - Oklahoma lawmakers have released a budget plan.

It includes cuts to most agencies and $200 million in bonds.

Funding for education is a double edged sword.

Funding for pre-K through 12th grade is basically staying the same, but higher education, on the other hand, is looking at $150 million less than the budget last year.

Couple that with cuts to DHS, and some said this budget plan is harmful for Oklahoma's future.

Few state agencies come out unscathed in the budget deal.

Funding will stay the same for the Department of Corrections at $485 million.

The State Department of Education stays put at $2.4 billion.

But, the plan slashes higher education by 16 percent from the original 2016 budget rolled out this time last year.

"To take $150 million cut from one year to the next just means students are going to have to pay more and more likely they're going to go somewhere else to get that education," said Rep. Scott Inman.

"I think that is of concern, but I think we have to be realistic about a $1.3 billion shortfall and the issues that presents," said Sen. David Holt.

The budget plan gives a little more funding to the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority to help cover Medicaid reimbursements.

But, it'll cut about $28 million from the Department of Human Services.

"On the whole, it's a budget that balances on the backs of poor folks of Oklahoma by taking tens of millions of dollars out of the DHS budget for poor children," Inman said.

Opponents also don't like the $200 million in bond money included in the budget plan.

Supporters, though, are fine with borrowing money.

"I don't have any heartburn about that. Bonding is a way the government funds infrastructure. I think we can handle that," Holt said.

"There's money out there. We could roll back the income tax cut. There's a variety of other places we could get revenues. We left them on the table and chose to balance the budget on backs of working families. That's unfortunate," Inman said.

Overall, it's about a $6.8 billion budget, down 5 percent from last year.

The bill will now be considered on the floor in both chambers.

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