This week is the deadline for floor work on Senate bills.
I have five remaining bills (SB 1364, 1365, 1369, 1372 & 1488) that will be taken up by the full Senate this week.
Work is continuing on the FY’19 budget. The Senate decided, in order to be as thorough as possible, to bring back the largest state agencies and a few others based on their budget requests for a second round of budget hearings in light of recent revenue updates. Typically, budget hearings are held by appropriations subcommittees during the interim. A second round of hearings will allow the full Senate to learn more about the agencies’ spending practices and budgeting needs.
To date, we’ve heard from the Departments of Education, Mental Health and Human Services, CareerTech, the Ethics Commission, OHCA and the State Regents. Their presentations are available on the Senate website under Committees and Appropriations.
The State Treasurer announced this past week that revenues are continuing to grow, which is great news but we must continue working to improve the budgeting system and strengthen our economy.
It is important we find new and reoccurring revenue so we may continue to fund core services. It’s equally important to find structural budget reforms. This past week, the Senate approved a series of apportionment or “off-the-top” reforms. This is money is taken out of the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and put directly towards certain programs. Over time, this has been done to ensure a certain level of funding for these programs but it has tied the legislature’s hands during economic downturns. Being that the funding is protected in statute, the legislature can’t just go in and move money when the state is experiencing extreme shortfalls like those experienced the last few years. The legislature appropriates only 45 percent of the state’s total revenue.
These reforms will cap numerous apportionments streams at a three-year average and direct any money collected in excess of that be deposited into the GRF.
A major milestone in criminal justice reform was reached this past week as well. The governor, legislative leaders and district attorneys announced an agreement to advance six criminal justice reform measures this session, as well as develop a coordinating council to oversee future criminal justice reform efforts. If approved, these measures will ensure more Oklahomans are productive, taxpaying citizens rather than costing the state through incarceration. The bills will also help significantly slow the projected growth in corrections’ cost. The savings can then be reinvested in education, health care and mental health programs that will yield further positive results for our citizens and our state.
Senate Republicans respect teachers and believe they deserve a pay raise. We have repeatedly passed revenue plans to fund a $5,000 teacher pay raise but they have failed in the House. The Senate will continue to work to find a solution. I’m confident we will find a way to pay our teachers what they deserve.
We’ve been fortunate to have outstanding pages so far. I want to thank Central senior Conner Kern and Walters senior Shalyn Bowles for taking time away from their studies to come help us at the state Capitol.
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 email@example.com, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.