Capitol Week In Review: Lawmakers Close To Budget Deal, Transparency Questions Arise
OKLAHOMA CITY - State lawmakers are close to a budget deal. The governor sprinted to avoid questions about transparency. And the honeymoon could be over between the legislature and the governor.
Lawmakers have till the end of the month to come up with a spending plan. They want to weave pay increases for teachers and state workers into that plan, plus an increase in classroom spending, while at the same time socking away millions for a rainy day.
“And we’re really close. I expect us to have a budget negotiated by early next week,” said Governor Stitt Thursday.
The main sticking point in negotiations was teacher pay. The House and governor wanted across the board $1,200 dollar raises for teachers. The Senate wanted local districts to decide whether to give those raises. In the end, the Senate backed down.
“We think we can have viable way of getting the teacher pay raise that the House and the governor have been advocating for and a substantial amount into the classroom,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore.
The Senate plan also includes $200 million for teachers and classrooms and $200million for savings.
“The $200 million in savings is very important to me. It’s going to be historic,” said Governor Stitt.
State employees are asking for a $2,500 annual raise. The total cost for that; about $92 million.
“Governor Stitt has said that he’s worried about the health and well-being of the state workforce. It’s very very hard to be healthy when you can’t afford decent food,” said state employee Hank Swearingen.
Senator Roger Thompson (R) Appropriations Chair says the governor is blocking lawmakers from getting crucial budget information from state agencies.
“We need to have accurate numbers, but we also need to have unfettered access whether that be numbers,” said Thompson.
When News 9’s Aaron Brilbeck tried to ask the governor, who ran on a campaign on transparency, about this apparent lack of transparency, he ran from cameras. He later explained what the Senate is saying.
“Couldn’t be further from the truth. This session has been going fantastic. Have a great relationship with the House. The Senate,” said Governor Stitt.
Next week, News 9 is hoping to get a look at the final budget proposal.