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Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at various issues related to our state budget, from how we use revenues from the lottery and medical marijuana, to funding for state services, including health care and corrections.  This week, we’re going to break down the actual budget process itself. 

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I want to thank everyone for taking the time to look at our weekly Budget Break Down articles and for sharing your comments and questions.  One topic I’m frequently asked about is what happened to all of the lottery money? 

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A bipartisan Senate interim study held Tuesday at the Capitol took an in-depth look at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s (OESC) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons learned, and how those lessons will be applied in the future.  The study was requested by Business, Commerce and Tourism chair, Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, and Senate Democratic Floor Leader, Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Chuck Hall, R-Perry, and Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, held a bipartisan study Tuesday to examine Oklahoma’s use of pre-paid benefit cards. The state contracts with New Jersey-based Conduent for a majority of state benefit cards including tax refunds, government assistance and unemployment benefits.

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At statehood, Oklahoma did not yet have its own prison system—inmates had to be sent to Kansas. When Kate Barnard, our first Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, uncovered the horrific treatment of Oklahoma prisoners, she worked hard to establish the construction of the state’s first prison and the establishment of a three-tiered state prison system, which included a penitentiary, a reformatory and a boys’ training school. 

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OKLAHOMA CITY – In a bipartisan interim study hosted by Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, on Wednesday, legislators heard from experts and non-profit leaders about the benefits of Pay for Success programs and how expanding their footprint across the state could save the state millions of taxpayer dollars. 

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You know it’s a great day in Oklahoma when you’re traveling, and all you can see are orange pylons.  Even though road construction can be a bit of an inconvenience, it’s a sign that our state is investing in our greatest physical asset—our transportation system.  It means we are improving safety with modernizations and expansions that will also enable us to grow our economy, creating new jobs.  For Fiscal Year 2021, state highway funding is $814 million, with another $620 million in federal highway funds for a total of $1.5 billion for roads a

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When you look at Oklahoma’s budget, it’s a little over $7.8 billion.  While many people are probably aware the lion’s share of that goes to education, they may not realize that health care is the second highest expense.  It makes up 31 percent of the total budget—some $2.3 billion in fiscal year 2021. This week, I want to break down where those funds go.

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When the legislature writes the budget, the funds we appropriate come from many different revenue streams, like income taxes, oil and gas taxes, cigarette taxes and others as well—about 20 in all.  I think people are aware that oil and gas collections are still low, and when that industry is down, it impacts many other areas in our economy. Add that to the economic impact of the pandemic, and it should be clear to see the challenges our state is facing. 

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