By Rep. Scott Fetgatter
The Legislative session adjourned a week early after the House, Senate and governor agreed on a final state appropriation for Fiscal Year 2020.
scott fetgatterThis $8.1 billion general appropriations’ bill represents an increase of about 6 percent to all core service areas such as education, transportation, health care and public safety as well overall economic growth activities and job recruitment efforts.
This budget prioritizes education, giving teachers a $1,220 pay raise – the second raise in two years to get Oklahoma teacher pay to the top of the region. We also devoted an additional $74.3 million more this year than last toward classroom spending. The Reading Sufficiency Act is fully funded, for the first time ever, to help ensure children in early grades can read on grade level. Concurrent enrollment programs are funded so high school juniors and seniors can earn college credit. And, we gave more money to CareerTech and higher education to help with staff and professor pay raises and to help universities build their research programs.
In transportation, we restored $30 million to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Fund and fully funded the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to keep their 8-year project list on track.
In health care, we increased our Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) match to increase provider rates by 5 percent, which in turn will increase funding support to hospitals, health clinics, health providers and nursing homes. We saved $29 million in a Medicaid preservation fund so when the federal government’s 3-year rolling average results in a rate decline our provider rates will stay level. When matched by federal dollars, that should net the state over $80 million. The budget also provides $62.8 million for graduate medical education programs to support physician training for those who will serve in rural hospitals. And, it includes $10 million to decrease the Developmental Disability Services waiting list and increase provider rates, which will help some of our most vulnerable citizens. Finally, a $4.6 million increase is designated for immunizations and to staff county health departments throughout the state.
On the public safety front, we increased pay for correctional officers by 14 percent, or $2 an hour, to help with understaffing and high turnover at our state prisons. We will fund two new Highway Patrol Trooper Academies next year and we put $1 million toward reducing the backlog of untested rape kits. We also are spending more money for Women in Recovery programs, substance abuse services and for mental health care services to help divert people away from prison who suffer from addiction or mental illness.
This budget also will help us grow our economy and the number of jobs in our state. We were able to put $19 million into the governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund to prioritize job recruitment opportunities in Oklahoma. We put $1 million for additional job growth and economic development specifically in the automotive industry and in aerospace through the Department of Commerce’s Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program. We designated $1 million to assist new entrepreneurs and small business innovators through the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology. And, we allocated $5.3 million to modernize and expedite the Oklahoma Corporation Commissions’ permit processing for energy development.
For rural Oklahoma, we gave $1.5 million to improve rural flood control dams. We allocated $1 million to our county extension offices to help them continue to provided needed services to our rural residents and to provide for our great 4-H programs for our youth. And, we added $3 million to Rural Economic Action Partnerships (REAP) programs to help us attract jobs and economic activity to our rural areas, among other things.
I’m proud of this budget and what it will mean for Oklahomans, particularly those who live in our House district. In my next column, I will detail some of the legislation I passed this year. Until next time, please feel free to contact me. My Capitol phone will still be answered during the interim, and I will be checking my email: (405) 557-7373; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..