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May 21, 2015 – Earlier this week, state lawmakers released a $7.14 billion budget agreement for Fiscal Year 2016, which included cuts to many conservation agencies. On Wednesday, the general appropriations bill (HB 2242) passed the House by a vote of 54-42. While a reduction in state revenues left officials with $611 million less to spend compared to 2015, state officials tapped the state Rainy Day Fun and other agency revolving funds to create a budget agreement of only 1.03 percent less ($74.3 million) than the previous year.
“We knew this would be a difficult budget year, but we believe we have delivered a responsible agreement that includes strategic spending cuts and much-needed apportionment reform,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa). “In a year when we were faced with a significant shortfall, difficult decisions had to be made to produce a balanced budget.”
Under the new budget, 49 agencies receive funding cuts ranging from 0.75 percent to 7.25 percent, eight agencies receive appropriation increases and 12 agencies receive flat appropriations. Funding for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission was reduced by 3.94 percent, the Department of Environmental Quality and Tourism and Recreation Department were each cut by 5 percent and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board received a 5.5 percent reduction in appropriations.
The agreement also accesses $150 million from the Rainy Day Fund and reconciles $125.2 million from various agency revolving funds including $10 million from the Department of Environmental Quality and $7.5 million from the Tourism and Recreation Department.
Current funding levels were preserved for common education, with more than 50 percent of all appropriated dollars going toward education expenses. Other agencies protected from budget reductions through flat or increased appropriations include the Department of Corrections, Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and State Department of Health and Office of Juvenile Affairs.
“At the beginning of this legislative session, I said that improving educational attainment, addressing over-incarceration and boosting health outcomes need to be priorities for the state of Oklahoma,” said Governor Mary Fallin. “This budget reflects those priorities and will allow us to continue to make progress in those areas.”
While lawmakers rush to adjourn by May 29 or earlier, the budget proposal must still be approved by the Senate and the governor.
For more information and details on all legislation we are currently tracking, visit www.oklahomaconservation.org/issues.