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State to have more money to allocate in the next fiscal year

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State finance officials say Oklahoma lawmakers will have about 10 percent more money to allocate in the next fiscal year than what was available in this year's record $6.2 billion budget.

Legislators could have up to $600 million more this year than a year ago to spend on agencies, projects or special needs lawmakers may want to consider during this year's legislative session, which begins Feb. 6. Legislators could also consider tax cuts along with increased spending.

Estimates indicate lawmakers will have about $6.8 billion to spend in this year's session as they craft the budget for the 2007 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The state has $314 million in growth revenue, or money projected to come in above earlier estimates.

The money was generated primarily by higher energy prices and an increase in sales tax and income tax revenues.

Lawmakers also will have about $155 million available for one-time supplemental expenditures. On top of that, the state will have about $145 million in a cash flow reserve fund, some of which could be spent or left in reserve.

Legislators already have committed some of the money. Teacher pay raises are estimated between $54 million to $61 million, and an extra $35 million is pledged for the state's highway system. Legislators also must pay the state's Medicaid program between $60 million and $100 million.

Legislators may have plenty of other ideas how to spend the money, but the state's expenditures for the 2007 fiscal year probably won't change that much from this fiscal year.

Eleven agencies received 88 percent of the money spent during the 2005 session. That won't change in this year's session, said Claudia San Pedro, state finance director.

More than half the money in this fiscal year's budget goes to education.

``That's remained pretty consistent over the past 10 to 15 years,'' San Pedro said.

Health services, public safety, human services, transportation and the cost of running state government consume nearly 90 cents of every state dollar.

The state budget doesn't include federal money the state receives for education, health and transportation agencies.

The federal government provides 67 to 70 percent of the money that goes to health care for low-income children, families and seniors. About 10 percent of the money spent on education comes from the federal government, San Pedro said.
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