May 4, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column
Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
Telephone: (405) 833-1117
For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA
OICA Breaks Down Budget Proposal from the Legislature
Education, Core Services Fare Well Amid Revenue Reductions
The Oklahoma Legislature returned to the State Capitol Monday to finalize budget plans for the upcoming fiscal year, which will begin on July 1. The leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, controlled by large Republican majorities, held a press conference announcing their proposal.
Budget reductions in the proposal are limited to 4 percent or less amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while seeing no cuts to services within the overall education system in our state. There was no discussion as to whether this budget was agreed to by Democratic lawmakers or Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Under the proposed budget, most of the $1.4 billion, or 17 percent, budget reduction projected by the state Board of Equalization for next year will be filled by using reserve funds, cutting one-time spending, temporarily redirecting non-appropriated money into the budget, and agency appropriation reductions of 4 percent, or less in most cases.
To help with the economic downturn, Oklahoma has so far received more than $1.25 billion in federal relief funds for COVID-19 expenses. Much of this money is expected to solidify agency budgets for services tied to the pandemic. The Legislature also noted they would like daily updates on how funding is allocated for the portion distributed by the Executive Branch outside of their direct oversight. The total budget proposal is $7.7 billion, which is $237.8 million, or 3 percent, less than the FY 2020 budget.
K-12 and higher education funding were prioritized with this budget plan. With federal relief funds added in, common education is projected to receive more funding than this current year. Oklahoma’s $200 million in pandemic relief money for common education fully offsets the temporary state funding reduction of $78.2 million, or 2.5 percent, to common education under this proposal. Teacher pay raises passed last year will not be impacted by cuts from the state.
Most other state agencies will receive reductions of 4 percent or less, with core service agencies such as health care, public safety, and transportation receiving smaller reductions; other agencies with mandatory upcoming spending obligations are held flat or even slightly increased.
Budget leaders said they used the projected $1.4 billion revenue hole to build the budget.. Should the projection change, midyear budget adjustments could be made when lawmakers return in February for the 2021 legislative session, or earlier with a special session if needed.
The Legislature will consider this bill very quickly to allow for time to negotiate with the governor regarding any concerns he might have with this proposal. If a veto occurs with a section or for the entire plan, the Legislature will have five days to consider an override of the veto or go back to the drawing board for adjustments.
The Oklahoma Constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn for the year by the final Friday in May. While there is a large list for policy work, not many of those bills will be considered with only four weeks to finish.
The lawmakers will focus on floor work this week with members voting remotely from their office or by proxy with their party leadership. This is a new thing for the Legislature, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
This week’s child advocate is AT&T and the statistic comes from Kids Count data – “During 2016, 20.7 million children across the nation lived in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment.”