State Senators Wednesday approved a $6.5 billion general appropriations bill that includes more than $300 million in new funding for education and enough money for a 5-percent pay raise for state employees.
The Senate amended version of House Bill 2351 passed by a bi-partisan 27-19 vote.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Johnnie Crutchfield said the provisions of the bill provide the framework of the Senate position on the Fiscal Year 2007 state budget.
“This budget funds the needs of our state first. It provides significant investments in education, health care and public safety,” said Crutchfield, D-Ardmore. “And it includes enough funding for a meaningful pay raise for state employees.”
Compared to the final Fiscal Year 2006 budget, which includes $100 million for bridge repairs and supplemental appropriations for the Department of Corrections and Oklahoma Centennial Commission, the Senate General Appropriations bill would increase state spending by 5.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2007.
Increased funding for education in the Senate budget mirrors the $204.3 million funding boost for public schools passed by the Senate in March and the $87 million increase in higher education funding approved by the Senate earlier this month. It also includes an $11.1 million boost in funding for CareerTech, which represents an 8.5 percent increase.
The measure includes $43 million which could be used to fund a 5-percent pay raise for state employees that would become effective January 1.
“It would be unconscionable not to give state employees a pay raise in a budget year like this. The proposal we have isn’t as much as the employee unions are seeking, but we believe it’s a fair plan, especially considering that the House is offering no raise at all,” Crutchfield said.
The House passed a $6.04 billion general appropriations bill March 30. The House measure would actually provide nearly $170 million less than the final Fiscal Year 2006 appropriation totals. In comparison to the Senate budget, the House proposal for FY 2007 would provide $148 million less for public schools, $62 million less for higher education, $41 million less for corrections and includes no employee pay raise.
The Senate budget, Crutchfield said, doesn’t spend all of the available revenue or Rainy Day Fund spillover.