Last week, the Oklahoma Legislature completed the first session of the 59th Legislature. Lawmakers finalized and passed a $12.9 billion budget for FY2024, sending it to Gov. Stitt on the final day of session. The budget leaves $3.6 million in reserves.
The legislature convened a special session on May 17th to allow more time to finalize the budget, if needed. The special session also will enable lawmakers to return in June to override any of Gov. Stitt’s vetoes on budget bills or related pieces of legislation.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Stitt called for cuts to the corporate and personal income tax and the elimination of the state’s grocery tax. He did not get either one and is considering calling lawmakers back to the Capitol.
More than 50 pieces of legislation, including the general appropriations bill, were included in the budget package. All of the budget bills were handled in the continuing special session. View the general appropriation summary here. Commitment to transportation funding remained for ODOT remained strong from the legislature and Governor.
After months of wrangling between the House and Senate, the lawmakers approved $785 million in new education funding. The historic budget includes $500 million for the school funding formula to include pay raises for certified staff and six weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers and staff. In addition, monies for a three-year literacy program and school security are included in the package.
The education package is tied to an income tax credit for students who attend private school or are homeschooled. Parents with students attending private school will be eligible to claim up to $7500, depending on their income. Homeschooling parents are eligible for a $1000 tax credit.
Just over $1 billion was appropriated to higher education, a 14.9% increase.
Lawmakers eliminated the franchise tax, saving businesses around $55 million annually, putting Oklahoma at a competitive advantage over Texas. Also eliminated is the “marriage tax,” which will treat married couples fairly, saving them around $14.7 million annually.
The legislature allocated the final $56 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The projects will address critical needs like expanding broadband services, increasing access to health and mental health care, including children needing long-term care and treatment, assisting hunger programs, replacing and updating water and wastewater systems, and strengthening workforce development in critical fields like nursing and healthcare.
16 bills were filed which would adversely impact OTA...the only bill becoming law by Rep. Danny Sterling HB 2263 to give equal appointment authority to the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Governor, who, if the bill becomes law, will appoint two members each to the six-member board. Currently, the Governor appoints all six members. “House Bill 2263 would evenly divide the appointment power between the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Governor to bring more transparency to the board,” said Sterling. This bill was overridden along with 18 others and it is likely to still face some legal challenges.