OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Senate passed the appropriations bill to fully fund government services in Oklahoma for Fiscal Year 2022.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins on July 1, appropriates $8.8 billion.
“This is a tremendous budget for the state of Oklahoma that prioritizes and makes increased investments in education, provides tax relief for families and small businesses, and yet still maintains to keep more than $800 million in savings,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “A year ago, the state faced a $1.3 billion shortfall and there was great economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, this budget will help ensure the state can advance and thrive as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. It’s a huge accomplishment and I want to thank Senator Roger Thompson, Senator Chuck Hall, and Senate staff for their leadership and hard work.”
The budget plan was written in House Bill 2900. The bill passed the Senate with a 38-9 vote on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration.
While Republicans in the Oklahoma Legislature are roundly pleased with the budget and it being approved, Democratic leaders criticized the budgetary process, saying it was too hurried.
”We feel like open and transparent means not only is your legislature entitled to see the numbers and be part of the budgetary process but, more importantly, the public is entitled to that,” said Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.
Democrats argued there wasn’t enough time to absorb the GOP’s state budget proposal before being told to vote on it.
The Senate also adopted measures on Thursday to “[lower] the tax burden on families and businesses,” according to a news release from Treat’s office
“I’m very excited about this budget and what it does for the citizens of Oklahoma. I believe the behavioral health center for children at OU is going to be life-changing for countless families in our state,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is a positive budget that moves our state forward.”
However, Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said the Republican budget doesn’t focus on the needs of average Oklahomans.
“The priorities expressed in the budget were not for the people of Oklahoma. They were for corporations. They were for businesses. They weren’t for Oklahomans who have suffered over the past year from the economic and health effects of the pandemic,” Virgin said.
The FY’22 budget agreement includes the following:
- Common education funding increased more than $210 million, and received an appropriation of $3.16 billion.
- Provides $50 million in caps on the Equal Opportunity Scholarship program, $25 million for public schools and $25 million for private schools.
- Provides tax relief for families and business.
- Reduces the top personal income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.75 percent.
- Reduces the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent.
- $30 million for a film tax incentive to spur more projects and investment.
- Expansion of broadband service in underserved and unserved areas statewide through a $42 million tax incentive for providers.
- Aggressively recruits jobs with more than $35 million in new economic development funding.
- Restores the Earned Income Tax Credit refundability, supporting low- and moderate-income working families.
- $164 million to fund Medicaid expansion approved by a vote of the people.
- Restores historic sales tax credit for OU Health, allowing them to train a significant number of additional nurses and medical doctors.
- $9.9 million for the creation of a children’s mental health unit at OU Health.
- Additional funding for the Attorney General’s Office to push back against federal overreach and represent the state in legal challenges associated with the McGirt case.
- $15.4 million for Rural Economic Action Plan that makes grants for infrastructure projects in rural Oklahoma.
- Restores funding to various state pension funds used last year to mitigate the impact of pandemic-related budget reductions.