OKLAHOMA CITY–A budget agreement was announced on Wednesday at the State Capitol that includes increased funding for education, transportation, public safety and health care, among many other areas. The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 also earmarks $200 million for Oklahoma’s savings account, bringing rainy day funding to more than $1 billion. State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom says the budget is one of the strongest in recent years, giving more support in critical areas, while still showing fiscal restraint by having enough left over to boost the state’s savings account.
The budget provides a $203 million increase for public education, with $157.7 million earmarked for several items in common education, including an average $1,224 teacher pay raise, $74.3 million as flex funding for local schools to use to meet their district’s unique needs, and $5.5 million for the Reading Sufficiency Act, which fully funds the third-grade reading initiative for the first time in state history. An additional $18 million will be routed to career tech centers and $28 million to higher education.
“With this budget we fulfill the Governor’s promise of a teacher pay raise that makes Oklahoma number one in the region in teacher pay,” said Bergstrom, R-Adair. “With this agreement, we also fulfill the promise of Senate Republicans to put more money in the classrooms, which means schools will have the funds to hire more teachers and reduce class sizes. At the same time, we are able to put money away for the future. This is the first time in our state’s history that the legislature has done so without being required by law to do so. The extra $200 million that is being set aside brings our total cash set aside at about $1 billion. Again, this is a historic achievement.”
Criminal justice and public safety are two additional areas that received prioritized funding. Pay increases for correctional officers will raise salaries by $2 per hour, bringing pay levels up to the regional market average. Two new trooper academies will also be funded, putting an additional 80 troopers on the roads by next year. Another million will be spent to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits.
“We have significantly increased the pay for those who work behind the fence in our prisons, while at the same time we’re investing in criminal justice reforms to reduce our incarceration rates and keep families together,” Bergstrom said. “We are also fully funding reimbursements to nursing homes and protecting all core services.”
“We are moving Oklahoma forward to be a top ten state in every positive way, while being fiscally responsible,” Bergstrom added.
Other highlights of the FY ’20 budget include $37.7 million for state employee pay raises and additional funding for the creation of the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency. The Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan will be fully funded with the FY ’20 plan and $30 million will be restored to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) fund along with its normal disbursement of $120 million. The budget also includes $500,000 to fund a public-private partnership to maintain clean water in northeastern Oklahoma and other areas with high poultry density.
“When we work together as a team, we can create policies that are game changing for the state,” said Bergstrom. “The investments made in crucial areas like education, corrections, and health care will create significant and sustainable growth for Oklahoma.”
For more information, contact Sen. Micheal Bergstrom: 405-521-5561 or Bergstrom@oksenate.gov