Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

$6.9B Budget Bill Approved Unanimously by Oklahoma Senate

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

$6.9B Budget Bill Approved Unanimously by Oklahoma Senate

Article excerpt

A $7 billion budget bill was approved unanimously by the state Senate on Tuesday with nary a word of debate. The fighting came after the vote, in the form of press releases.

While those Democrats who were left out of the negotiation process - including Gov. Brad Henry - said the bill was flawed, the legislative leaders who crafted House Bill 1234 praised the bill's merits and dismissed Henry's comments as "whining."

"We don't know if these are just oversights or deliberate policy statements by the top leaders of the Legislature," said state Treasurer Scott Meacham, point man for Gov. Brad Henry on budget issues, highlighting areas of government that appear to be under- funded by HB 1234, the state's general appropriations bill for the year.

"There's inadequate funding for corrections, public schools and higher education, no funding for key job creation tools like the Opportunity and EDGE funds, no money for the Oklahoma Centennial or the Smart on Crime initiative, and nothing for Educare, an initiative that offers matching private donations to fund early education for at-risk children in Oklahoma," said Meacham.

Some agencies did not receive enough money from the appropriations process last year and needed a supplemental appropriation just to catch up before the new budget year begins July 1. Corrections officials had asked for $47 million but would receive $10 million in supplemental funds, said Meacham.

Henry objected that legislative leaders did not consult him in the negotiation process, nor did they properly inform him of what the budget bill contained before the bill was introduced - despite the fact that Henry has the power to veto whatever budget items he wishes.

"We're not saying spend more," said Meacham. "We're saying seek more input and check your work and budget priorities."

House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, said legislators refused to hold up needed funding for agencies for the sake of negotiating "the governor's pet projects. …

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