Oklahoma Senate approves FY’19 budget giving education, mental health, criminal justice reform significant increases

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a $7.6 billion general appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019 that gives significant funding increases for common education, mental health services, child welfare programs, and criminal justice reform.

“For the first time in years, we have a budget in which no agency receives a cut. The budget contains a 19 percent increase for common education, more than $24 million for the Department of Human Services to fully fund the Pinnacle Plan, and $11 million for multiple criminal justice reform measures,” said President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus. “This budget puts additional resources toward core services like education, mental health, child welfare services, and public safety. And early approval of this budget increases the likelihood the Legislature can adjourn early, saving the additional costs of a few more weeks of session.”

“In this budget, Oklahoma Senate Republicans undeniably have demonstrated our commitment to education. This budget contains $365 million for a $6,100 on average teacher pay raise, $52 million for support staff raises, $33 million for textbooks, and $17 million in new funding for the school funding formula. We also secured $7.5 million in funding for concurrent enrollment. Education is important to the success of our state which is why Senate Republicans worked so hard to secure significant increases for our students, teachers, and schools in this budget,” Schulz said.

Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David, R-Porter, said, “After years of economic recession in Oklahoma that led to massive cuts to the state budget, our state has finally turned the corner and this year’s budget reflects that. The fiscal year 2019 budget has $260 million in growth revenue due to policy changes and growth in the economy. That growth means our budget is on more stable financial footing because it has greatly reduced our reliance on so-called ‘one-time money.’ It’s a great feeling to have no agency budget cuts, and instead have a budget that puts significantly more money toward education, mental health services, and public safety.”

Highlights of the FY’19 budget:

– $7.6 billion budget

  • Approximately $745 million increase over FY’18$365 million for teacher pay raises
  • $54 million for state employee raises
  • $260 million in growth revenue
  • No cuts for any agency

– $2.9 billion for common education, a 19 percent increase

  • $6,100 teacher pay raise, on average
  • $52 million for support staff raises
  • $33 million for textbooks
  • $17 million in new state-aid funding formula
  • $7.5 million increase for concurrent enrollment

– $24.6 million funding increase for Department of Human Services, fully funding Pinnacle Plan

  • 7 percent increase for Medicaid Advantage waiver, Developmental Disability and Group Home rate increases
  • 5 percent increase on foster care and adoption rates
  • $2 million increase for the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) wait list

– $11 million in criminal justice reform initiatives

  • $5 million to Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • $1.1 million to Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS)
  • $1 million to District Attorney’s Council

– $2 million for agency performance audits conducted by Agency Performance and Accountability Commission

– $4.8 million to Department of Corrections to implement electronic offender management system

– $4 million to Office of Emergency Management for disaster relief

– $400,000 to Department of Agriculture for rural fire fighters

NewsOK: Poll shows three-way tie in GOP gubernatorial primary

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Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett are in a three-way tie for first in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to a survey released Wednesday by Magellan Strategies.

The survey of 644 likely Republican voters showed 19 percent expressed support for Lamb; 19 percent for Stitt; and 17 percent for Cornett.

The automated voice recorded survey was conducted on April 18, 19 and 22, according to the Colorado-based company. The survey has a margin of error of 3.86 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

According to the survey, President Donald J. Trump has an approval rating of 80 percent in the state, while Gov. Mary Fallin’s approval rating is 20 percent.

Stitt is a Tulsa businessman running as an outsider. Cornett is the former mayor of Oklahoma City.

Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson received 12 percent in the survey; Yukon pastor Dan Fisher received 5 percent; and Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones received 5 percent.

The undecided was 23 percent.

The primary election is set for June 26, with the run-off primary scheduled for Aug. 28.

Previous polls this year have shown Cornett and Lamb as the frontrunners, with Stitt in third and very high amount of undecided voters.

Todd Lamb’s Education Plan is “Recycled Idea”

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News Release:

OKLAHOMA CITY – (April 27, 2018) – Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Gary Jones said today that Todd Lamb’s plan to “get a minimum of 65% of every education dollar spent directly with teachers in the classroom,” isn’t Lamb’s plan – that he co-opted it and called it his own.

According to Jones, “The 65 Percent Solution” has been around since 2005 and is the brainchild of Tim Mooney, a Republican political consultant from Arizona. With the financial backing of Overstock.com founder Patrick M. Byme, Mooney is the strength behind the single-issue advocacy group First Class Education.

Jones believes it’s more of a campaign slogan than a plan.

“Part of the problem lies in definitions. Athletics would be counted as a classroom activity, including coaches’ salaries, but librarians, guidance counselors, food service workers and school bus drivers do not, under guidelines created by the National Center for Education Statistics,” said Jones.  Cookie cutter solutions and campaign slogans won’t fix the problems facing Oklahoma.”

Jones also said Lamb claims he wants to limit administrative cost of others, that doesn’t apply to the Lt. Governor.

“You don’t have to be a CPA to know that being chauffeured around in a state-owned vehicle, driven by a highway patrolman, attending campaign fundraisers, all while picking up campaign contributions, doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Jones. “The use of taxpayer funds to campaign for public office is a misuse of state resources regardless of who it is.”

Jones estimates that Lamb’s style of travel cost taxpayers upwards of $250,000 annually – which adds up to nearly $2,000,000.00 for his 8-year term as Lt. Governor.

According to Jones, Lamb’s office has previously stated that the Lt. Governor  is entitled to such excess because it is in the Oklahoma Statute. But in 2011, a bill was filed to only give the Lt. Gov. a security detail when the Governor was out of state. Lamb and his chief of staff went to the Oklahoma House Speaker’s office and demanded the bill to remove his security detail be killed. Here is that bill: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2011-12%20INT/hB/HB1616%20INT.PDF

Jones said Oklahomans deserve a true advocate for transparency and accountability at the State Capitol.

“For me, responsible government isn’t just talk, it’s a lifestyle. Getting more money to the classroom is much more than a campaign slogan for me; I have a real plan to get that done. If fixing our state’s problems matters as much to you as it does to me and my family, then let’s fix it together.”

Sine Die in Sight

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When lawmakers adjourn the legislative session, it’s called “sine die,” which is Latin for “without assigning a day for a further meeting.”  House Republican leadership announced last week they intended to wrap up the 2018 session around May 4, a few weeks before we are legally required to end legislative work.

 

As we near the end of my second regular session (and fourth if you count the special sessions), I’ve found myself really proud of what we’ve finally accomplished. It wasn’t perfect, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was progress.

 Most notably, lawmakers passed legislation raising salaries for all teachers, support staff and most state employees. These raises will have an impact on thousands of Oklahoma families across this state who deserve this increased compensation for their service to the state. Legislators also increased funding for education through a textbook stipend and boosted state aid formula dollars. These are all wins – all steps in the right direction.  

 What I’m perhaps most proud of, however, is that Democrats and Republicans were able to accomplish this in a year without a huge surplus in our budget. As many of you know, recent state budgets have enforced cut after cut to state agencies because of revenue failures. These slashed budgets have resulted in numerous headaches for the civil servants who have been forced to do more with less. This year, though, lawmakers joined together to change the state’s course.

Nobody likes increased taxes, especially when it impacts your bottom line. But sometimes good governing involves making uncomfortable choices because we know it will set the state on a better path forward. With the revenue-raising measures my colleagues and I passed earlier this session, we’ve done that and we’ve done it in a way that will impact most Oklahomans on average of $21 per year in gasoline taxes.

Those votes and the bipartisan cooperation mean we can start to properly fund our government. And thankfully, the increased revenue means a “robust increased budget,” according to Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols.

Of course, my colleagues and I can’t take all the credit. The economy continues to improve, too. The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported that March General Revenue Fund collections were $405.5 million – $53.5 million, or 15.2 percent, above March 2017 collections and $21.4 million, or 5.6 percent above the monthly estimate.

Moody’s, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies, also issued a credit-positive report for Oklahoma earlier this month. If you remember, Moody’s gave Oklahoma a credit negative warning about five months ago when the Legislature had not yet closed a $215 million hole in the state budget. Talk about a turnaround.

 

As we wrap this session up, I will continue to work during the interim to find efficiencies in government that allow us more freedom to fully fund core services. It’s a project I’ve been working on since my first election, and it’s one I’ll continue from here on out. We cannot allow government waste to hinder our state’s ability to efficiently function. I know you want a funded government that works for its people and does so without waste.

As always, I’m here if you need me. Don’t hesitate to reach out at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7327. Thanks, and God bless.

Senate Report from Chris Kidd April 26 2018

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 It’s no secret; education and its funding have been the focus and all-consuming issue this session. It’s much more than just a legislative issue, it’s a personal one.  The hundreds of Senate District 31 constituents who have visited my office over the last four weeks aren’t just constituents; these are the people we all do life with. People, who I go to church with, grew up with. They’re the ones who taught me in school. They are classmates, former students of mine and former colleagues. They are relationships I value.

But in addition to education, our rural nursing homes and hospitals, our mental health system, our intellectually and developmentally disabled population, our roads and bridges also need attention and funding. Two things I’ve learned serving as your senator: you elected me to ensure all areas of state government are running efficiently (without waste) and to make sure all areas of state government are properly funded.

Regarding state government inefficiencies, waste, and reforms:

Last session, new legislation was signed into law for the first time in state history requiring performance audits of the state’s 10 largest agencies every four years. (HB 2311)

In addition, we have cut 85% of the state’s agencies, 45% over the last decade. We’ve also reduced 7,000 state employees and consolidated or eliminated 18 agencies in that time.

Regarding proper funding of state government (education):

This session, the state legislature passed a bi-partisan education funding bill that included the following:

1. Teacher pay raises: $353.5 million

2. Support staff pay raises: $52 million

3. Text books: $33 million

4. Teacher Flex Benefits: $24.6 million

5. State Employee Pay Raise: $63.7 million

To put this into perspective, half a billion dollars (over $500 million) in new revenue was created for public education in an environment of tough political circumstances and a requirement of a three-fourths majority vote. What had not been accomplished in 30 years and what seemed to be impossible, was accomplished on March 26, 2018. This legislation provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history, moving Oklahoma to the second-highest in the region in average teacher pay.

We also passed HB 3705, which appropriates $2.9 BILLION, or a 19.7 percent increase overall in education funding. The bill includes a 22 percent increase overall to the State Aid Funding Formula, with $33 million line-itemed for textbooks and $17 million into the state aid formula. The revenue package also includes $63 million in tiered funding for state employee pay raises, and another $52 million for a $1,250 pay raise for education support staff.

What was accomplished with the passage of the above mentioned legislation is historic. Difficult decisions were necessary, and while our work in education is not done, I am proud of the strides we have achieved thus far.

At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at kidd@oksenate.gov, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.

New law to allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Lonnie Paxton applauded Gov. Fallin for signing legislation Tuesday to help grow Oklahoma’s agriculture industry by allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. House Bill 2913, by Sen. Paxton, Rep. Jon Echols and Rep. Mickey Dollens, creates the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program.

“Currently, Oklahoma can import hemp but can’t grow it.  This will help diversify our state’s struggling economy and will provide a tremendous boost to the agriculture industry,” said Paxton, R-Tuttle.  “This new industry will potentially create thousands of jobs and put hundreds of millions of dollars a year into our economy.  There’s a strong possibility that it could easily become a $1 billion industry.”

The new law will allow universities or farmers contracting with universities to cultivate certified hemp crops for research and development for industrial uses.  The Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry will manage the program.  A revolving fund will also be created for all registration, lab, and inspection fees paid by program participants.

Hemp is the strongest natural fiber in the world and has been found to have more than 50,000 uses including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.  Being a weed, it is drought tolerant taking one-third the amount of water of alfalfa.  The benefits of cultivating this plant is that it can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre per year, which is four times what an average forest can yield and it does not require chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides. Hemp could yield Oklahoma farmers as much as $1,500 per acre.

The new law, which went into effect upon being signed, was made possible by the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowing the growing of hemp under pilot programs overseen by universities.  Nearly 40 other states already have industrial hemp programs.

Senate approves work requirements for Medicaid recipients

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OKLAHOMA CITY – To strengthen Oklahoma families and the state’s economy, the Senate approved legislation Wednesday to establish work or training requirements to participate in the SoonerCare Medicaid program.  House Bill 2932, authored by Sen. Adam Pugh and Rep. Glen Mulready, would instruct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to seek waiver authority to modify Medicaid eligibility criteria to require documentation of the same education, skills, training, work or job activities currently required by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“This bill follows direction from the federal government to help those Medicaid recipients who are working-aged and able-bodied get back into the workforce and become a self-sufficient, contributing member of society.  It will align SoonerCare qualification requirements with those already in place for Oklahoma’s SNAP,” said Pugh, R-Edmond.  “I grew up extremely poor and my mom, who was a single parent, worked three jobs to support our family.  I would work as many jobs as necessary to take care of my family.  This will encourage Medicaid recipients to take some personal responsibility in getting the education or job training they need to support themselves and their families.”

The bill would mirror federal Medicaid law and SNAP by exempting from the new eligibility requirements those individuals who are 19 years of age or younger or over 60 years old, pregnant, medically-certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment, or who are a parent or caretaker of a dependent child under a year old.

According to the OHCA, there are approximately 106,600 Oklahomans who are a part of the parent/caretaker group receiving Medicaid coverage who are able-bodied/working-aged adults 19 to 64 who are not pregnant, disabled or blind.  Thirty-two percent of those recipients were male and 25 percent were two adults living in the same home and both receiving Medicaid coverage. An analysis by the agency of SoonerCare members covered in FY’17 found that around 8,000 out of those 106,600 would not have met any of the exemptions outlined in the bill.

Currently, more than 600,000 Oklahomans receive SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) each month. In FY’17, there were more than one million Oklahomans enrolled in SoonerCare Medicaid with nearly 796,000 SoonerCare recipients in March 2018.  OHCA also noted there are nearly 81,000 SoonerCare recipients who also receive SNAP benefits.

The coauthor of the measure, Sen. Paul Rosino has been a strong advocate for the federal government’s push to get states to create work requirements for eligible Medicaid recipients.

“I applaud the Governor for championing these work requirements and my colleagues in the Senate and House for supporting them.  This will provide these individuals with the tools, whether through education or job training, to help better their lives to be able to support themselves and their families,” said Rosino, R-Oklahoma.  “We must break the cycle of government dependence that is getting worse with each generation. Since getting into office, personal responsibility and work requirements for able-bodied adults 19 to 64 has been one of my top priorities. I will continue to advocate for and support any legislation that helps strengthen Oklahoma families and our economy by helping more people become independent and self-sufficient.”

The bill now returns to the House for final consideration. Besides being approved by the Governor, the new eligibility requirements would have to also be approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Bill aimed at boosting state’s second largest industry

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OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to boost the state’s second largest industry, the aerospace industry.  House Bill 2578, by Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Tess Teague, would create the Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program under the Department of Commerce.  The ACES program is based on similar business models from other states that have proven to have substantial economic impacts.

“The aerospace industry in Oklahoma is a $44 billion industry and utilizing ACES proven organizational structure and methodology is estimated to further grow the industry to $50-$60 billion annually,” said Rosino, R-Oklahoma City.  “This focused initiative will help drive further job creation, economic growth and increased tax revenues for our state.”

HB 2578 would create a partnership of service providers to more effectively respond to the needs of the aviation, aerospace and defense industries in the areas of education and training, research and economic development.  A panel would be formed, chaired by the Governor to facilitate Oklahoma agencies, industry, academia and other key stakeholders in creating and aligning goals.

ACES would build on the success of its precursor, the Center of Aerospace and Defense Supplier Quality (CADSQ) ran by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC).  A 2015 Economic Impact Study found that CADSQ created $72 million in new business and had a $237 million state economic impact.  The OAC invested $2 million in CADSQ, which produced $9.7 million in new taxes for the state.

“The aerospace industry has tremendous momentum right now and we must keep that going. The previous business model used by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission provided a five to one or 517 percent return on the state’s investment and ACES will help produce even more growth in Oklahoma’s economy,” said Rosino. “Having a strong business strategy will help the aerospace industry continue growing by being able to better utilize available resources for the recruitment of specific targeted businesses that have production and sustainment capabilities.”

HB 2578 will now go before the full Senate.

Shelby and Ryleigh Watkins serve as pages for Senator Chris Kidd

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Comanche High School senior, Shelby Watkins, and sophomore, Ryleigh Watkins served as Senate pages for State Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, during the tenth week of the legislative session from April 9 – 12, 2018. Shelby and Ryleigh are the daughters of Waurika residents Chris and Raquel Watkins.

Statement from Senate Democrats on Oklahoma Teacher Walkout

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OKLAHOMA CITY- Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus:

“Today the Senate Democratic Caucus welcomed thousands of educators, parents, students, and concerned citizens to the Capitol. We stand with them in their fight to properly fund public education in Oklahoma.

Paying our teachers a fair and competitive salary is a priority, but this movement is about more than just teacher pay, it’s about the chronic underfunding of public education in Oklahoma.

Over the last decade state funding for public education is down $180 million, marking a 28% cut. Since the 2013-14 school year, student enrollment has grown by 15,000 students but there are 700 fewer teachers in our public schools, with 20% of public school districts in Oklahoma moving to four day school weeks.

Our students deserve better. We need to restore funding for education which has been slashed by years of tax cuts. The legislature passed a revenue package last week, but more work needs to be done to provide sustainable revenues for education.

Last month the Senate passed SB 1086, bipartisan legislation to eliminate the capital gains tax loophole, which would bring in an additional $100 million in revenue for education. We urge the House to take action and pass the bill this week so we can make a serious investment in Oklahoma’s classrooms.”

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