Monday, May 16, 2011

Cockroft Column: Oklahoma's Budget Bills

House lawmakers spent a painstakingly drawn out day debating appropriations bills that form the state budget Friday. Although I supported most of what was negotiated between the governor and legislative leaders, I could not support one bill that essentially borrowed money to pay the bills for this year’s budget.

The proposed budget protects core government agencies like education, public safety, health and human services to a greater extent than other agencies. The cut for K-12 schools was held to 4.1 percent, a tough cut I would have liked to spread out more among less important areas of government spending. I was pleased though that supplemental funding was found for ad valorem reimbursements, which is money the state is behind on paying to certain schools.

I was also pleased that Rural Economic Action Plan funding remained in the budget, despite a cut. This funding helps volunteer fire departments keep our community safe. We also held public safety to a 4 percent cut. The Department of Corrections, which has to contend with a growing prison population, was held to a 0.5 percent cut that should prevent the furlough of corrections officers.

The transportation bond that I felt I had to oppose as a fiscal conservative would have authorized a bond to pay for transportation projects. There was bipartisan opposition to it, but it narrowly passed by a 51-45 vote. Whether or not we passed it, we could have funded road projects. This simply means we will be borrowing money to complete the Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan, rather than just finding the funding in the budget.

Overall, I think House leadership worked hard to try to negotiate a fiscally conservative budget, but there are many players involved and I think they did the best they could under the circumstances. If I were able to create the budget alone, I would have made different choices. To see the complete line item budget, go to my blog at:

Next week, I want to talk to you about the House redistricting plan. This plan will reshape our district and I want to ensure everyone knows exactly where the new district boundaries will be.

If you have questions or need information, please contact my office at or (405) 557-7349.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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