5 Percent Pay Hike, Education Reform Funding in Budget

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A 5 percent pay raise for state employees, a $9 million supplemental appropriation for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and full funding of the third year of common education reforms of House Bill 1017 highlight Gov.

David Walters' executive budget.

The document was presented Monday to the Oklahoma Legislature, which convened for the second session of the 43rd Legislature.

The state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 has been estimated at $3.56 billion, up 3.7 percent from what was appropriated last year, and giving lawmakers $108.4 million in "new" money available for appropriation this year.

That $108.4 million is the target of funding requests by agencies totaling $605 million, the budget document said.

Walters' budget recommendations included:

A two-step salary increase, totaling 5 percent, for all state employees rated as "satisfactory" or better in performance. To get the money, agency heads would be required to find ways they could save in existing budgets. Examples would be reallocation of funds, and not filling vacancies when other employees quit or retired.

This would amount to a $45 million reallocation of current state dollar funding. The budget recommends an appropriation of $500,000 to fund the pay raises in cases of small agencies that would lack the employee slots or resources to reallocate.

Walters called for a $16.4 million appropriation from the Constitutional Reserve "Rainy Day" Fund, whose current balance is $202 million. Of that, $9 million would be a supplemental appropriation to the human services budget for the current fiscal year. Benjamin Demps, department director, originally said a $31 million supplemental appropriation was needed, later trimming the figure to about $13 million.

The rainy day appropriation also would include a $6.9 million mid-term supplemental adjustment for elementary and secondary schools, and $500,000 to replenish the state's fund that is used to match federal disaster assistance.

House Bill 1017 tax increases should make an additional $14.8 million available for education funding for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the budget said. The Legislature last year also set aside $33.7 million for education funding for the coming fiscal year. Walters recommends $44.5 million of additional general revenue, plus $2. …