Fortunately the Senate leadership came to its senses last week and agreed to a budget compromise. The Governor, President Pro-Tempore, and Speaker Hiett agreed to a basic framework in which to formulate the budget. This week legislators will be coming to the Capitol to meet, discuss, and pass a budget for the 2006-2007 budget year.
For the past two months I have been sending out letters and receiving responses about how to use the excess money for this fiscal year. The results have been an overwhelming desire to see tax relief. The two next most frequently identified responses were education and transportation.
This budget provides a four-year plan for tax relief. It will eliminate estate taxes by the year 2009. It will also reduce the top income tax rate from 6.25% to 5.25% in the year 2010. The standard deduction will also reach the federal level in the year 2010.
Higher Education will see an increase of $130 million to its budget. This will allow OPSU to continue with its goals of campus and university improvement. This is also separate from the $7.25 million it will receive for its new science and agricultural building.
Common Education (K-12) will also receive a substantial increase in its funding. A teacher pay raise will be implemented that will give a $3,000 pay raise to teachers. It still hasn't been decided if this will be an across the board raise or will be the average of the step increases.
A pay raise that increases the step pay that the teachers receive each year will cost about $10 million more. This pay raise would range from $1,975 for a first year teacher to $4,425 for a teacher with 25 years experience. A teacher with eleven years of experience would receive a $3,025 pay increase.
Transportation will also see a tremendous increase. The House Road Plan would convert the Transportation fund from a certified fund to a revolving fund. It would increase the amount used for road improvement from 170 million to 270 million. This would occur over a span of five years. Most important for our area, it provides for the three-year phase in of motor vehicle revenues to increase by 15%. This would go exclusively to county roads and bridges.
The people that fix the roads, staff the prisons, and others who work for the state will also receive a pay raise. Their increase will be 5% of their current salary and will be implemented on October 1 st .
This budget also gives $150 million for the EDGE fund, 30 million for an Opportunity Fund (to attract new business), and $15 million for the State Emergency Fund. Eighty million will go to Universities for research and the Oklahoma Medical Research Fund will receive about 15 million.
On Monday and Tuesday the subcommittee chairpersons will meet to divide up the money for each agency. On Wednesday through Friday the entire legislature will arrive to read, discuss, debate and pass the budget bills. By Friday at 5:00 PM the state should have its budget for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, It is more than a day late, but definitely not a dollar short.
Boise City News