Posted: Jun 04, 2019 1:00 PMUpdated: Jun 04, 2019 1:26 PM

Local Delegation Talks Budget, 2019 Legislate Session

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Garrett Giles

The area's three-person delegation wrapped a bow on the 2019 legislative session Tuesday afternoon. Senator Julie Daniels, and Representatives Judd Strom and Darrel Fincher spoke at a forum put on by the Bartlesville Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Daniels said the $8.3 billion dollar budget that was approved this year was the largest appropriated budget in Oklahoma's history. One of the biggest budget highlights, she said, was the Stabilization Fund.

Governor Kevin Stitt wants to save $2 billion in his first four years. The State, Sen. Daniels said, was able to save $1 billion this year.

Without being provoked, she said, the "Rainy Day Fund" should top out at $858 million this year. There is a constitutional cap, however, and when it reaches that cap, the excess flows back into the General Revenue Fund. No more can be added to the Rainy Day Fund unless Oklahomans want to push for the cap to be lifted through amendment.

All this being said, Sen. Daniels said Governor Stitt wanted to do more. Therefore, she said the State took the Stabilization Fund that has not been properly used since it was put in place two years ago.

They put $183 million into the fund and took alcohol revenue to come up with $200 million. The formula was then adjusted so when the future rears its ugly head, a percentage of Gross Production Tax on oil and gas, and a percentage of Corporate Income Tax will automatically flow into the Stabilization Fund.

Unlike the Rainy Day Fund, Sen. Daniels said, when certain triggers and bad economic times occur, the Legislature will be able to spend a quarter of it immediately. If things get worse, she said they will also have the option to go out and spend some more.

She said it was a real blessing to have Gov. Stitt push the State of Oklahoma to save money so they do not have to cut down on services as much when the next economic downturn comes around.

Representative Fincher said a big highlight of the budget to him was the $1,200 teacher pay raise so they can keep Oklahoma competitive in education. Raising salaries for higher education and providing additional funding for career techs was also important to him in this year's budget.

Rep. Strom said a takeaway from the budget is that they were able to fund things they were not able to fund in recent years. He said they were able to appropriate money for agriculture, rural fire mitigation and flood control dams. Money was also appropriated to provide clean water to all Oklahomans.

To listen to the entire Legislative Wrap-Up Forum held at the Bartlesville Community Center on Tuesday afternoon, click here.

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