Oklahoma legislators have announced a budget that would slash appropriations by three percent. While the cuts aren’t as deep as what was projected, they are significant and represent hundreds of millions of dollars of state funding.
With Oklahoma’s economy slammed by the fallout of COVID-19, lawmakers said at their Monday announcement this was the best possible resolution.
Under the agreement, common education would only see a cut of about 2.5 percent. And teacher pay raises would be protected.
In fact, the cut is so shallow for schools that the $200 million they will receive in coronavirus relief from the federal government will likely make up the difference and then some.
Lawmakers say the budget has been agreed upon by both chambers. And they are mostly happy with the result.
“The Legislature is pleased to have an agreement stabilizing the budget to the fullest extent possible under the numbers Governor Stitt provided,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “The Legislature is strongly united behind this agreement and will enact it quickly to provide certainty to state services at a time it is sorely needed.”
But, House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, expressed frustration with the budget process and pointed to a lack of transparency from the governor's office.
“The governor needs to stop playing political games during a pandemic and use the money allocated to Oklahoma to fund state government," Virgin said. "If he believes in the $1.3 billion shortfall, then he should release the formula of how he came up with the number so we can have a better understanding of what the executive branch sees."
It’s unclear what Governor Kevin Stitt thinks of the budget. He was absent from Monday’s press conference. However, lawmakers from both houses said they believe they’d have enough votes to pass the budget over him if he tries to veto it.