Accord exempts K-12, Higher Ed, Corrections and Health Care Authority

Legislative leaders and Gov. Brad Henry this week announced agreement on a plan to combine targeted budget cuts with use of the Constitutional Reserve and federal stimulus funds to balance the Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

Monthly allocation cuts for most state agencies will remain at 10 percent for the balance of this year. However, four areas of the budget will receive supplemental appropriations, drawing down the reserve (better known as the Rainy Day Fund) and making some reallocations: Higher Education, K-12 education, the Corrections Department and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Senate President Pro Temp Glenn Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, commented in a statement provided to CapitolBeatOK, “Just as every family in the state of Oklahoma is making hard financial decisions around their kitchen tables, so too is the State of Oklahoma facing the tough choices in this difficult national economy.”

Describing revenue collections this fiscal year as “very volatile,” Coffee said, “While this budget agreement isn’t entirely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, honorable people with right motives have negotiated in good faith, and we will move forward with caution to engage this budget and on to the 2011 budget.”

Tulsa Republican Chris Benge, Speaker of the House, said, “This agreement maintains more than half of our state’s total reserve dollars for fiscal year 2011 and beyond and also puts in place significant and strategic cuts that will reduce the size of government to better match state collections. This deal is a compromise that was not reached lightly.”

He continued, “It remains unclear when state revenues will rebound, which will continue to influence our decisions as we try to pinpoint an ever-moving target, and budget accordingly,” Benge concluded.

The three leaders said K-12 education would get $50 million to fill in the HB 1017 fund. Common education would share $80 million with Higher Education to offset some budget reductions. The health care authority would get $33 million in supplemental appropriations under the agreement, while Corrections would get $7.2 million. A joint statement from the three clarified the accord applies only to the 2010 (current) budget, and that no similar agreement has been made for FY 2011.

The accord will be the first matter considered when legislative work begins next week.