This week, the House and Senate each passed the appropriations bill to fund state government services for Fiscal Year 2022. This budget appropriates $8.8 billion, which starts in July.
This budget increases common education funding by more than $210 million to a historic high of $3.2 billion. Also included in the budget is a $27 million increase for textbooks and increased money for the school activity fund. There are also bills moving through the legislative process to create funding equity for school districts with low property tax bases and increase per-pupil funding by getting rid of duplicate student counts in the school funding formula which will also add more funding for every school in my district.
This will be the largest education budget in state history. With this budget, Republicans have increased annual education funding by $776 million, or approximately 25%, since 2018. Oklahoma public schools have also received about $2 billion in federal pandemic relief funds on top of the additional state funding since the pandemic.
Transportation funding increases by almost $17 million and a $200 million dollar investment to speed up the 8-year plan through the federal TIFIA program. When the pandemic started, funds were set aside from the Oklahoma Dept. of Transportations’ ROADS fund to be used for other core functions of government. This budget restores that money, making the ROADS Fund whole. The Country Improvement for Roads and Bridges fund is likewise made whole with a $20 million increased appropriation.
The budget reduces personal income tax by 0.25% for all taxpayers and restores the Earned Income Tax Credit for low- to moderate-income families and workers. It reduces corporate income tax from 6% to 4% to help the state recruit new businesses, create jobs and guard against federal tax increases under the current administration. Once those bills are signed, Oklahoma will be in the Top Ten for lowest corporate and personal income taxes in states levying those taxes.
In addition, this budget allocates $42 million to expand broadband services to areas of the state that don’t currently have access to high-speed internet. This will help all Oklahomans connect to education, health care and other services, and it will help attract business to rural areas.
The Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) will receive $15.5 million under this plan as well. REAP grants are made available to rural communities throughout the state to help with projects that otherwise would go unfunded. Projects can include road repairs, equipment purchases, utility infrastructure and much more.
The budget includes several economic boosters, including $35 million to recruit new jobs to the state, and fully funds the state’s Medicaid expansion that was approved by voters last year. It also restores a historic sales tax credit allowing the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to train 160 additional nursing graduates and nurse practitioners annually and 70 additional medical residents within three years.
On a final note, this budget brings the state’s savings accounts back to almost $1.3 billion for FY22. This is the largest savings in state history. In the last two years, we used a portion of our savings to help bridge our budget deficits due to the pandemic and allow us to continue to fund education and other core services that our citizens depend on without significant cuts. I am very excited that we are able to fully replenish our savings account to higher than pre-pandemic levels and still offer tax relief to Oklahomans and businesses while also making strategic investments in education, healthcare, transportation and other core services.
This is truly the best budget that I’ve had the opportunity to vote for in my time in the legislature and I have never been more optimistic regarding the future direction of our state than I am today.
We are now heading into our last week of session as the constitutional deadline for adjournment of the legislative session is 5 p.m. Friday, May 28. Please continue to reach out to my office with questions or concerns about legislation. God bless!