State Budget Needs to Take Effect
By State Rep. Earl Sears
The recent Fiscal Year 2008 budget agreement that was vetoed by the governor contained a lot of attractive items for Oklahoma and its citizens.
Funding for education, health care improvement and road re-construction were part of the bi-partisan, $6.9 billion budget agreement, which passed by a vote of 48-0 in the Senate and 84-16 in the House. All but $92 million in supplemental funding for this year was cut.
The following is a rundown of what was vetoed:
The budget, which was crafted on a bi-partisan footing, also met Oklahoma's April 1 Fund Education First deadline for the first time. Hopefully it's the beginning of a trend.
Unfortunately, because of the veto, many school districts will have to make personnel decisions this month without knowing what they will receive from the state next year. Schools would have received almost $200 million in supplemental and new funding under the agreement.
The governor also vetoed funding for a performance audit of the state Department of Corrections, which has been plagued by inefficient spending practices.
So it's back to the drawing board, though a veto override attempt could be enacted at some point before the end of session on May 25. To override the veto, both the House and Senate would require a two-thirds majority vote.
The original budget agreement also featured around $90.5 million in relief to working families the next two years. That includes lowering the tax rate from 5.65 to 5.5 percent a year early, giving a tax credit to stay-at-home parents, and eliminating the franchise tax for about 24,000 small businesses.
It also includes a statewide sales tax holiday weekend during the first weekend of August for clothes and shoes with a sales price under $100. My hope is that the entire tax relief portion of the agreement can still be enacted.
Last time I wrote, we were just finishing up work on our own bills. Now we're currently in the process of committee work on Senate bills. We spend the bulk of our days right now in conference rooms deciding which Senate bills should make it out of the committee process and onto the House floor for a vote. Very soon, we'll be voting on those Senate bills and if they pass, they'll move one step closer to being law.
We've now been in session for two months and I feel that many good things have been accomplished. But there is still much to do in the next seven weeks. Just remember, if you ever want to contact me or voice your opinion, do not hesitate to contact me.
Sears (R-Bartlesville) represents District 11 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be contacted at (405) 557-7358 (office) or (918)336-4855 (home) or via e-mail at email@example.com.