Legislature Approves State Budget

by Brad Boles
Oklahoma Rep. Brad Boles  R-Marlow Oklahoma Rep. Brad Boles R-Marlow

After months of discussion, the Legislature this week (ending week of May 26) approved budget bills for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1.

Highlights of the budget include a historic investment into K-12 education, which is the largest funding increase in state history. Other features of the budget are monies for six weeks of paid maternity leave for both teachers and state employees, increased funding for nursing homes, a new family caregiver tax credit and additional funding for home-based services for developmentally disabled individuals.

The legislatively appropriated budget is the result of months of transparent work. It is based on input received throughout dozens of public legislative budget hearings, hundreds of publicly-available agency budget requests, the governor's executive budget proposal introduced at the beginning of session, and the input of every member of the House, all of whom serve on at least one budget committee or subcommittee.

The lions' share of the budget continues to be education, at $5.65 billion, or 43.9%. Public K-12 schools continue to be funded at the highest level in state history, $3.97 billion.

To help put into perspective how significant this year's education investment is, once the education bills are signed into law, we will have invested $1.45 billion in new funding to common education since 2019, which is approximately a 59% increase. In comparison, common education received an increase of $1.37 billion from 1992-2018.

When this education package is signed into law, the Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor Stitt will have poured more new money into education in the last 5 years than during the previous 27 years combined. Additionally, Oklahoma teachers will have received on average a raise of $11,000 in the past five years, which is a significantly higher increase than any other time in state history over the same five-year period.

Health remains the second largest area of investment at 18.2% of the budget for a total of $2.34 billion. Human services received the third largest apportionment, with 7.1%, or $909 million. Transportation and public safety make up 6.3% and 5.7%, respectively, of the state budget.

The budget agreement is contained in House Bill 1004X, the general appropriations bill, and a handful of other House and Senate bills passed off the House floor this week.

Since we passed our budget bills in a special session, which runs concurrently with our regular legislative session, legislators have the option of reconvening at a later date to consider any veto overrides of those bills.

Our regular legislative session adjourned Sine Die on Friday, May 26, ahead of the constitutionally-required 5 p.m. deadline.

While the Legislature is now in our eight-month interim period, the work continues. We'll soon begin interim studies, where we dive into the nitty-gritty of certain policies we're considering working on in the next legislative session. Before we know it, it will be time to file bills for next year.

In the meantime, however, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to every constituent of House District 51 who called my office, wrote me an email or came by the Capitol this year. As your state representative, it's my responsibility to represent your voices at the Capitol, and it's one that I take very seriously. Hearing directly from constituents about a policy helps me make more informed voting decisions in committees and on the House floor.

Next week, I'll recap some of the most notable bills we saw completed this year, as well as the bills I authored that made it across the finish line. As always, please continue to reach out with any questions or concerns. Contact Boles at: (405) 557-7405 -or- brad.boles@okhouse.gov.

Rep. Brad Boles represents District 51 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Grady and Stephens counties.

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