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EXPLAINER: GOP leaders announce deal on $9.8B spending plan

FILE - Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks, April 12, 2022, in Oklahoma City. Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House and Senate have announced an agreement on a $9.8 billion state spending plan. The deal announced Tuesday, May 17, 2022, would be the largest budget in state history, an increase of nearly 10% over last year's spending plan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House and Senate announced an agreement Tuesday on a $9.8 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, the largest in state history.

Unlike previous years, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt was not included in a statement announcing the agreement, and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposal.

“This year’s budget agreement reflects that the Oklahoma Legislature prioritizes education, law enforcement and healthcare,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said in the statement.

Here are some key things to know:

WHAT ARE SOME BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS?

The spending plan would be the largest budget in state history, an increase of nearly 10% over last year’s budget. Among the key provisions is a plan to send “inflation relief” cash payments in December of $75 to each individual taxpayer and $150 to married couples who file jointly.

The deal includes a $32.5 million increase in funding to the Department of Human Services to eliminate the waiting list of more than 5,000 developmentally disabled Oklahomans to receive state services.

While the average budget increase was about 10%, some state agencies received increases while others had a reduction in funding. Public schools received a modest increase of about .54% over last year’s budget, while colleges and universities saw an increase of about 7.45%. The House and Senate saw its budget increased by 19% and 15%, respectively, while the budget for the governor’s office remained flat.

This year’s budget also includes nearly $1 billion for economic development, including nearly $700 million to help lure a major manufacturing facility to Oklahoma and another $250 million to help retrofit areas like industrial parks to help recruit other large-scale projects in the future.

WHO GETS MORE MONEY?

This year’s budget includes pay raises for employees at several state agencies, almost all with a connection to law enforcement, including 30% pay hikes for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers at a cost of about $14.2 million.

Besides troopers, other employees to get pay raises this year include workers at the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Department of Corrections, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and state park rangers.

WHAT ABOUT SAVINGS?

Like it has in the past few years, the Legislature this year socked away more money into various state savings accounts. Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson said if revenues continue to come in as anticipated for the rest of the fiscal year that ends June 30, Oklahoma will have a balance of $2.7 billion in various savings accounts, the most in state history.

IS THE BUDGET DEAL FINALIZED?

The package of bills that make up the budget still must be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt. If the governor vetoes any part of the package, like he did two years ago, the House and Senate could vote to override him.

Democrats in the House and Senate voted against the proposal, saying more could be done to help average Oklahomans, but Republicans in the House and Senate can override the governor’s vetoes without them.

“There are some wins in this budget, but those wins are marred by several losses,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin. “We didn’t eliminate the grocery tax. We didn’t increase the (earned income tax credit) for working Oklahomans, and we didn’t address Oklahoma’s regressive tax structure, which Republican leadership has admitted is unfair to working Oklahomans. In a year we held education funding flat, we allocated $700 million for Panasonic, a billion-dollar company that still hasn’t committed to coming to Oklahoma.

“If we think this budget is a reflection of our state values, lawmakers need to get outside of the Capitol and spend more time with Oklahomans.”