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By Sen. GEORGE BURNS
Senate and House leadership has come together with the governor to agree upon a budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which will begin on July 1. This budget focuses on investing in our public schools, rural Oklahoma and replenishing our state’s savings account that was significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m a strong supporter of our rural school districts. They are educating the future citizens and leaders of state and country, and it’s important to get our teachers and schools the resources they need to successfully do their jobs. The budget we’ve agreed to will boost common education funding by six percent – or $171.8 million – which is the most that’s ever been allocated to education, coming in at a total of $3.2 billion. This targeted investment will allow schools to reduce class sizes for kindergarten and first graders, get new textbooks and infuse additional funds into the poorest districts in the state, with the goal of increasing those educational outcomes. I’m proud of the emphasis we’re putting on funding public education and am glad we were able to accomplish this historic milestone, especially after a year of uncertainty and struggle due to the pandemic.
The budget also includes significant investment in the growth and diversification of businesses across the state, specifically focusing on rural Oklahoma. It will help to expand broadband access to underserved areas of the state that desperately need internet to keep up with the technology-driven world through a $42 million tax incentive. Ensuring that all of southeastern Oklahoma has access to high-speed internet will continue to be a top priority of mine.
Finally, we are setting aside $800 million into our state savings account, increasing the balance to $1 billion dollars. Our savings were drained during the last fiscal year to ensure state agencies had adequate funding to operate. Since we were blessed with an excess of funds this year, it was important to set some money aside for the future. If anything, the pandemic has taught us how important it is to have a stable savings for life’s unexpected moments.
I’ll continue to share more about the budget as we work through the bills in the coming days, but I’m pleased with what we’ve put together, especially after a year of uncertainty.
Thank you for allowing me to be your voice at our state Capitol. If you have any questions about legislation, or need assistance with an issue, please contact me by email at George.Burns@oksenate.gov or by phone at 405-521-5614.