OKlahoma State Capitol

The Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday sent Gov. Kevin Stitt a $8.13 billion state budget bill.

The measure, House Bill 2765, passed by a vote of 37-11. Two Republicans joined nine Democrats in voting against the measure.

Stitt is expected to sign the budget agreement, which has pay raises for teachers, correctional officers and state employees.

“I think this budget addresses the needs of the people of Oklahoma,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. “We made a substantial investment into education, but also into health care. I am excited about that — those two areas.”

The measure also includes $10 million for Smart on Crime Initiatives through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, he said.

“We have got to start taking care of some of the criminal justice reform on the front side instead of just the back side,” Thompson said.

The budget agreement calls for $18 million for CareerTech for raises and course additions. It includes $28 million for higher education to bolster research and provide a professor pay raise.

The agreement includes $105 million for provider rate increases for doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.

The measure passed despite concerns that it didn’t put enough money into the education funding formula and set aside $200 million in savings for economic downturns.

“I think the number is too low in our formula investment,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso.

The budget includes $74 million for the funding formula to allow schools to hire additional staff, lower class sizes and pay for materials.

It also contains $58.8 million for a $1,200 teacher pay raise, on top of the average raise of $6,100 approved last year.

Last year lawmakers raised taxes on gross production, tobacco and gasoline to deliver the teacher pay raise.

Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, voted against the budget. He said it was the largest budget in state history with minimal reforms.

“Last year, there were massive tax increases with promises for all kinds of reforms that were not delivered upon,” Dahm said. “I felt like we should be doing reforms before spending more and more of the taxpayers’ money.”

Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, voted against the measure, even though it contains $1.5 million for the race massacre centennial. Matthews chairs the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission.

Matthews said it was a “tough vote,” but he felt the measure could have done more to shore up the state’s pension systems, provide cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and restore the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income taxpayers.

Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, also voted against it.

He said he felt like more money should have gone into the education formula so districts could determine how best to spend it.

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Barbara Hoberock



Twitter: @bhoberock

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