Legislative leaders and Governor Fallin announce budget outline

 House and Senate leaders joined Governor Mary Fallin Tuesday to announce a framework for spending $6,502,883,889 in Fiscal Year 2012. The total budget reduction is 3.2% from the FY 2011 budget of $6,720,8347,226.

It was the first budget accord in state history where the announcement was made by an all-Republican team.

The budget outline anticipates agency cuts in the range of 5-9% for most agencies. What are deemed “core government functions” are held to comparatively smaller cuts, including common education (4.1% cut), Public Safety (4% less), Health and Human Services (1.2% less). Transportation would receive a 7% agency cut, but would gain a $70 million bond issue allowing an eight-year building program to continue.

The House of Representatives will get first cut at the budget implementation. State Rep. Earl Sears of Bartlesville, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said work had already begun on designing the line items of the spending plan. He said it was possible that greater detail on spending within agencies would be available by Friday morning.
House Speaker Kris Steele of Shawnee announced he and colleagues would work this Friday to expedite consideration. Sears complimented his Senate peer on budget issues, David Myers of Ponca City, for working hard on the budget issues despite a recent illness.

Steele and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman of Sapulpa confirmed they had promised Governor Mary Fallin they would bring to floor consideration portions of her agenda that have not yet passed, including agency consolidations, and Internet Technology proposals.

In response to a question from CapitolBeatOK about “right-sizing” of Oklahoma government, Fallin emphasized the modernization reforms were important elements in advancing that agenda.

In a statement at unveiling of the budget accord, Fallin said, “At the beginning of this legislative session, I asked lawmakers to send me a plan that accomplishes three things: balance the budget without raising taxes; prioritize spending to protect core government agencies like education, public safety, transportation, and health and human services; and pass  legislation that makes our state government smaller, smarter and more efficient.
“This budget accomplishes all of those goals. It makes tough, but realistic spending cuts while shielding government priorities from the highest reductions. Furthermore, I have received a commitment from our legislative leaders that important government modernization efforts will be passed and sent to my desk, so that we can keep our promise to voters to make government operate more effectively.”
Steele said, “We faced a challenging financial situation again this year, but I am pleased we were able to put our heads together and come up with a balanced budget that protects the core services our citizens expect. Oklahomans will be pleased with the results this budget will produce.”
Senator Bingman commented, “This budget reflects our commitment to fiscal responsibility while preserving core services to the citizens of Oklahoma.  We are prioritizing our needs in the areas of public safety, education and transportation funding.  I want to thank Governor Fallin and Speaker Steele for their work in this effort, and my Appropriations Chair Senator David Myers for his hard work in leading the Senate budgeting process.”
State Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City, minority leader for Senate Democrats, immediately assailed the spending plan. In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, he said,

“After months of secret negotiations, the Republicans who run state government are finally ready to show all Oklahomans where their priorities lie. They have chosen corporate special interest tax breaks that will result in drastic cuts to important areas like public schools, senior nutrition centers, and public safety.
“The Republicans are disingenuous when they say these deep cuts are unavoidable. They had a choice, and they chose corporate special interests over middle class families. We all know that you get what you pay for, and in this case Oklahomans will not be happy to see their communities short-changed by fewer police on the streets, larger class sizes for fourth-graders, and the closing of nursing homes.”