The state legislature passed a spending plan for 2021, bridging a massive $1.4 billion budget gap.
“With the projection we were handed a month ago with a 17.2% decrease in available appropriations for this year we were able to reduce the fiscal year reduction to 3%,” said Representative Kyle Hilbert (R) Appropriations and Budget, Vice Chair.
And that was no easy feat. The legislature dipped into the states savings and cut most agencies by 4%, except education which was cut by 2.5%, but still came out on top.
“The increase from the federal CARES act is $160,950,000 going to schools. So just that alone shows an increase to the state department of education of over 82-million,” Hilbert said.
“It cuts mental health by $14 million. The department of mental health is getting cut by $14 million while our constituents are getting shot at McDonald’s by disgruntled customers,” Representative Mickey Dollens (D) Oklahoma City said.
“I agree with him that mental health needs more money. I agree with him that his no vote comes from a place of caring. I was scared a week ago that we would be voting on a much greater cut to mental health,” Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader replied.
Some lawmakers took aim at the governor. He has access to 800-million federal dollars, and he isn’t saying how it will be spent.
“And I’m not clear on who’s fault it is that talks or negotiations have broken down but all I know is that the citizens of Oklahoma deserve better than a power struggle between the legislature and the governor,” said Representative Emily Virgin (D) Minority Leader.
News 9 asked Governor Stitt whether he will veto the proposal.
“It’s my job as governor to sign it or to veto it so we are working through all those things and my commitment to Oklahomans is I’m going to do my best to get a great budget,” Stitt said.
“I know it’s not the best budget in the world but under the circumstances I think it’s a pretty good budget,” Hilbert said.
Even with the cuts the legislature was able to squirrel away $675 million for the fiscal year 2022 budget.