Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, House Speaker Chris Benge, and Senate president pro tempore Glenn Coffee have reached a budget agreement for fiscal 2010 that protects education, health care, public safety, and transportation from significant cuts.
The State Board of Equalization earlier this year certified a revenue estimate that gives legislators $6.46 billion to appropriate in the next budget, which is $612.5 million, or almost 9%, less than the $7.1 billion budget for fiscal 2009.
An earlier estimate that revenues would be off $300 million was used by Henry to develop the $7.09 billion executive budget presented to the Legislature in early February. Fiscal 2010 begins July 1.
The budget includes more than $500 million in federal stimulus funds, part of the $2.6 billion Oklahoma will receive over the next two years from the $787 billion stimulus package.
Most state agencies had their budgets cut by 7% from fiscal 2009, but public and higher education will get 2% more. Additional funds will also go to health care and transportation, with corrections and veterans affairs being held harmless.
“Because of the uncertain economic conditions and projected decline in state revenues, this was a very challenging budget process that required many difficult decisions,” Henry said. “With the help of stimulus funds, we were able to protect a number of priority areas, but we were also forced to cut many worthy agencies and programs in order to live within our means and balance the state budget. Obviously, we would have liked to do more to shield services from cutbacks but the budget reality just would not allow it.”
Benge, a Republican from Tulsa, said legislators studied the budget for each state agency to determine where reductions were possible without harming services.
“This budget is a reflection of the surgical cuts we promised the people of Oklahoma early in this session,” he said.