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Legislative Leaders Agree on Education Budget, Transportation, Public Safety Appropriations

OKLAHOMA CITY -Legislative leaders have reached a budget agreement today that will pump an additional U $203 million into education in the coming fiscal year, and add new moneys to public & safety and transportation as well.

"We've said all along that education is our top priority, and this agreement proves it," said Senator Stratton Taylor, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate. "We feel that it's the best investment we can make for Oklahoma, especially from an economic development standpoint."

The agreement was announced after several weeks of budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders.

"The $203 million will be divided among common education, higher education and vocational-technical education," noted House Speaker Glen D. Johnson. "The budget agreement illustrates the depth of our commitment to public education and the people of Oklahoma."

The exact amount of the individual allocations will be determined by House and Senate budget writers in the days and weeks to come. The overall total includes funding : for midterm adjustments and teachers retirement costs.

Public safety and transportation will also receive additional funding under the accord reached by legislative leaders today.

"We were able to give education the lion's share of the state growth revenue without neglecting other critical needs in public safety and transportation. All the bases that needed to be covered have been," said Senator Taylor, D-Claremore.

Under the legislative program, transportation will receive an increase in general fund revenue, some $15 million, for the first time in recent history. Public safety and corrections will receive a total of $52 million in new money.

"We're providing public safety with the money it needs to catch the criminals and keep them behind bars," said Speaker Johnson, D-Okemah. "We're also taking steps to improve our road and highway systems, especially in rural Oklahoma.

"In short, we're investing the state's growth revenue where it will do the most good, in education, infrastructure and public safety.

The budget allocations include significant funding for rural economic development projects, such as roads, bridges, water and sewer lines," added Speaker Johnson.

In addition to the state's growth revenue, legislative leaders are also going to notify Governor Keating that Rainy Day funds should be considered for use in the total FY H '97 budget package, including $13.1 million for midterm adjustments.