Proposed Oklahoma Budget Includes Cuts To Education, Public Safety

Tuesday, May 10th 2011, 3:41 pm
By: News On 6 & Ashli Sims, News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State leaders reached an agreement on a $6.5 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year that uses a combination of agency budget cuts, money from a cash reserve fund and a transportation bond issue to plug a $500 million hole in the budget.

The overall budget is three percent smaller than last year's budget.

Read the proposed budget

"Oklahomans have had to tighten their belts, families have tighten their belts, businesses have had to tighten their belts, now state government has got to continue to tighten its belt," Governor Mary Fallin said.

Republican Governor Mary Fallin and leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature announced the deal Tuesday that will lead to cuts of about 4 percent for common education and 5 percent for the state's colleges and universities.

"I asked lawmakers to send me a plan that accomplishes three things: balance the budget without raising taxes; prioritize spending to protect core government agencies like education, public safety, transportation, and health and human services; and pass legislation that makes our state government smaller, smarter and more efficient," Fallin said.

"This budget accomplishes all of those goals. It makes tough, but realistic spending cuts while shielding government priorities from the highest reductions," she added.

Under the proposed budget, cuts to state agencies range from one to nine percent and include:

  • Transportation- 7 percent cut, but a $70-million bond issue is included so the department can finish its eight-year-work plan on-time.
  • Department of Health - 1.2 percent cut
  • Department of Human Services - 1.1 percent cut
  • Department of Public Safety - 4 percent cut
  • Department of Corrections - 0.5 percent cut to prevent further furloughs
  • Department of Education - 4.1 percent cut

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Keith Ballard, says he fails to see how a four percent budget cut, which is about $100 million, makes education a priority. He estimates this budget plan will dig the district into a $6 million budget hole.

But lawmakers are pledging to funnel an extra $20 million into education through a supplemental appropriations bill.

"We intend to run a supplemental bill this session that will bring common ed down to a 3.8 percent reduction and higher ed down to a 4.8 percent reduction," Speaker Kris Steele said.

Janet Barresi, Superintendent of Education, said Governor Fallin and legislative leaders had "tough choices" to make, and praised their work for "crafting a budget that balances muliple priorities."

"While a 4.1 percent reduction for education will be challenging, it is less than the cuts that education faced earlier in the legislative session," Barresi said.  "We're committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the impact of this reduction on school districts is minimized."

Governor Fallin seemed pretty pleased with her first budget deal, but said there is still more work to do.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.