By Rep. Rick West
After an entire session of negotiating, the House and Senate finally agreed on a state budget that maintains all state core service funding.
The $8.3 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 includes $800 million in savings, which takes us over $1 billion. This rebuilds our reserves that shrunk during the pandemic.
This budget also includes $210.3 million more for education this year than we appropriated last year. This meets the requirements of House Bill 1017, passed in the 1990s, and means we can finally reduce class sizes in kindergarten and first grade, which will help our young students in core subjects like reading and math. Research shows smaller class sizes in these early grades bring good results throughout a child’s entire school years. These kids will have a better chance of graduating on time, be better prepared for higher learning and have a much better shot of getting a decent paying job in the future.
Schools also will be getting millions in federal relief act funds.
Also on the education front, concurrent enrollment programs are fully funded. This means our community colleges won’t have to pay this cost. These are great programs for high school juniors and seniors, so they can earn some early college credit. It helps save them money and gets them on their way toward earning their college degree.
We appropriate $42 million for rural broadband. This gets Internet service into areas that don’t currently have it. This will help with education, health care and other connections people in our rural areas would like to have.
This budget also fully funds our County Improvement for Roads and Bridges program, which means a lot in our House district and in other rural areas. Keeping our road and bridge improvement projects on track improves our ability to move freely and our safety.
On a separate note, we’re getting our House Bill 1236 sent to the governor. This bill creates a new law stating that the Oklahoma Legislature may review any federal executive order, federal agency rule or federal legislative action to determine constitutionality. Upon recommendation from the Legislature, the Attorney General will review the action to determine constitutionality. Additionally, it stops a publicly funded organization from implementing any action that restricts a person’s rights or is deemed unconstitutional.
The House passed this bill back in February, but it got amended in the state Senate, stripping it of some of its weight. We rejected the Senate amendments and sent the bill to Conference Committee where an agreement was reached to return the bill to its original state and send it on to the governor for his signature.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio each Thursday morning during the legislative session. And if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.