Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — An agreement has been reached to balance the state budget without raising taxes.
Addressing a $500 million shortfall, the plan relies primarily on budget cuts. However, the proposal also calls for streamlining some areas of government by consolidating several state agencies under the Office of State Finance, consolidating the state’s Internet Technology services, and moving the Human Rights Commission into the Attorney General’s Office.
Cuts to state agencies will vary from 1 percent to 9 percent.
As chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on public safety, I was a voice at the negotiation table on those issues and spent a lot of time working to reduce the cut to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety.
That work paid off and I am pleased the Department of Corrections received a cut of just 0.5 percent. Because of the low cut to DOC, additional furloughs of corrections officers are now OFF the table.
I wish we’d had better luck with K-12 schools so they would not receive a 4.1 percent cut while the Department of Human Services received only a 1.1 percent cut and the Department of Tourism and Recreation received only a 3.1 percent cut. However, the budget required buy-in from the Office of the Governor, the House and the Senate, and this was the final outcome of those negotiations.
Rural Economic Action Plan funding was preserved, although reduced.
Although transportation received a 7 percent cut, the budget includes a $70 million bond issue that will offset much of that reduction and allow the agency to complete its eight-year work plan on time.
In other big news, a bill redrawing the lines for all 101 state House districts is now advancing through the Legislature.
House Bill 2145 creates the “State House of Representatives Redistricting Act of 2011.”
According to the 2010 Census, Oklahoma’s total population is 3,751,351, which means each state House district should have an ideal population of 37,142 people.
The changes in House District 42 are not dramatic. My district will lose rural areas currently in the north end, but the line will extend to include rural areas further to the south. I had to fight to retain Purcell and Pauls Valley, and am pleased both are still in the district.
I was sad to lose the Goldsby community, but will now have the opportunity to become acquainted with citizens in the Pernell area. Otherwise, every community I served will remain in the district.
Overall, I am pleased that House District 42 remains a rural district, because I believe it is important that rural Oklahomans have a seat at the table, and I will continue to fight for the common-sense conservative values of those communities no matter how district lines may change.
As always, feel free to contact me at (405)557-7365 or write me at State Capitol Office 302A, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105.