Capitol Week In Review: Budget Talks, Medicaid Benefits
OKLAHOMA CITY - With the teacher walkout officially over, state lawmakers are setting their sights on criminal justice reform, properly funding mental health and substance abuse treatment. Also, lawmakers may possibly wrap up the budget early.
Leaders in the House and Senate said they're close to a deal on the state's $7.6 billion budget. They said because they've been in a marathon session over the past 15 months, they've had time to discuss issues that normally would come up in special session.
Lawmakers also admitted they have an incentive to wrap up before the May 25 deadline - Capitol fatigue.
Much of that fatigue comes from scoring a deal on a $2.9 billion education spending plan that includes an average $6,1000 pay increase for teachers and more money for the classroom. It also led to the largest tax increase in state history.
The Oklahoma Education Association ended the walkout last week, but teachers continued coming to the Capitol this week to lobby for more money.
Lawmakers said they're done negotiating.
The Senate passed a bill requiring those who are on Medicaid and able to work to get a job or serve community services to continue receiving benefits.
The legislature also passed criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing the prison population by about 9,2000 inmates.
Next week, the House of Representatives will consider a bill to impose a new tax on wind energy production.
Lawmakers said if everything goes as planned, they could gavel out May 4, instead of May 29.