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State leaders reach budget agreement

State leaders reach budget agreement

By M. Scott Carter
The Journal Record

Posted: 05:35 PM Thursday, May 20, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislative leaders and Gov. Brad Henry finalized an agreement Thursday that, they say, will plug a $1.2 billion hole in the state’s budget and shield core services from massive spending cuts.

The agreement was announced Thursday afternoon, after lawmakers were briefed by the Legislature’s Republican leadership.
Under the agreement, $6.68 billion in general revenue will be appropriated to state agencies and programs. That figure represents a 7.6-percent reduction in total appropriations from the original FY 2010 budget.

Additionally, the state will spend about $372 million of the state’s constitutional reserve fund and about $300 million in federal stimulus funds.

Speaking after the agreement was announced, state Treasurer Scott Meacham – the governor’s chief budget negotiator – said FY 2011 represented “a historic challenge” for the governor and legislators.

“The most difficult thing was how big the hole was, it was historic,” he said. “Never has a Legislature or governor in this state faced a challenge like this.”

Henry agreed the budget was difficult to write.

“In the face of a historic revenue shortfall, this was a very difficult and painful budget to craft, but I am proud that we were able to strike an agreement that largely protects the core services that are so important to Oklahomans and the state’s economic recovery,” the governor said. “All levels of public education and our classroom teachers in particular play such an important role in this state’s economic future that it was critical to shield them from the deepest cuts, and we did that.”

Along with spending reductions, the budget includes increases in fees for vending machines, a moratorium on many tax credits and increases in fees for permits and items such as certified copies of driver’s licenses.

Additionally, as part of the agreement, the state’s common education system (kindergarten through 12th grade) and career technology system will receive targeted cuts of just 2.9 percent to help avert teacher layoffs and other classroom reductions.  FULL ARTICLE

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