Wednesday, March 23, 2016
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed two measures that will tap nearly $80 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Senate Bill (SB) 1572 appropriates $51 million to the State Department of Education to provide money for public schools and to pay the full cost of health insurance for teachers, administrators and support personnel. SB 1571 sends $27.5 million to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for payroll and essential services for inmate population increases.
“I appreciate members of the House of Representatives and the Senate for their quick approval of these two bills, and for the cooperation of their leaders in agreeing that this is the most responsible option,” said Fallin. “The appropriation of these supplemental funds will pay for vital state services for education and corrections between now and when this fiscal year ends on June 30.
“Now, legislators need to focus on the 2017 fiscal year, which starts July 1, and take action to put recurring revenues on the table this session, like I proposed in my executive budget. Failure to do so will result in the same problem next year. The Rainy Day Fund option is a one-time fix, but we need to do the tough work to pass a budget this session that contains true, meaningful fiscal reforms the state needs.”
House Speaker Jeff Hickman said it has been challenging for legislators this year to deal with a revenue shortfall for the 2017 fiscal year budget as well as finding emergency funds for public schools and prisons.
“Our prisons are in a crisis at more than 120 percent of capacity and only around 65 percent staffed on any given day, so this emergency funding is critical,” he said. “The supplemental funding for common education is necessary to ensure schools have the resources to complete the school year then have time to plan ahead for next year.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said money was deposited in the Rainy Day Fund to help Oklahoma deal with revenue shortfalls.
“The state budget and economy are suffering because of the downturn in oil and gas,” he said. “Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to improve soon. Using a portion of the Rainy Day funds this year lessens the impact of budget cuts on students and state prisons, while ensuring Oklahoma has money in reserve to help with the financial challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said throughout this fiscal year, districts have faced serious budget challenges, and this supplemental funding greatly helps offset the impact of February’s revenue failure.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we are grateful to Governor Fallin and the House and Senate for their willingness to use $51 million from the Rainy Day Fund to come to the aid of Oklahoma public schools,” she said. “The leadership of Governor Fallin, Speaker Hickman, President Pro Tempore Bingman, and the bill’s authors, Senator Clark Jolley and Representative Earl Sears, allows us to minimize disruptions to our schoolchildren and educators as they close out the school year. We owe each of them our heartfelt thanks.”
DOC Interim Director Joe Allbaugh said he appreciates the Legislature and the governor providing emergency funding for his agency.
“This money will go a long way to preventing drastic cuts that would ultimately jeopardize the safety, security and operations of our prison facilities and the citizens of the state,” he said. “I recognize the difficulty the governor and members of the legislature face when making tough decisions this year. I appreciate their efforts for making public safety a top priority. I look forward to continuing to work together.”
The $78.5 million withdrawn from the Rainy Day Fund, as authorized by SB 1571 and SB 1572, will leave a balance of about $306.5 million.