Friday night at 10:00 PM the House adjourned sine die to end the 2 nd Special Session of the 50 th Legislature. All the budget bills were passed and a government shut down was averted. There were few surprises during the session, but there were a lot of tense moments as several of the bills ran into problems before they were passed. In the end, however, all the agreements made for the budget compromise were kept.
Common education will receive a $3,000 across the board pay raise for all teachers. The money for the raise will go outside of the formula. This will insure that schools in our area will be able to pay for that part of the pay raise. The final bill, however, did not include money for FICA and retirement for the pay raise. This will force school districts to pay that part of the raise out of their operational money.
The state workers will also receive a 5% pay raise. There was considerable wrangling about whether to include the Department of Corrections workers that received a pay adjustment earlier in the year. The final bill included them in the pay raise.
Retired state workers also received a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to deal with rising costs. Most of the systems received a 4% COLA for their members. The retired teachers received a 2% COLA. This is the built in COLA for their system. Although several attempts were made to increase the COLA for this system, in the end they received only what their system assumed in its financial projections.
Higher education also received the $130 million increase from last year. The comprehensive universities also received $80 million to spend on new projects. It is still important for the State Regents to put as much money as possible through the formula to help the regional universities like OPSU.
The Governor signed the budget bills, but vetoed one important bill for our area. He refused to sign HB 2755 by Senator Laughlin and myself. This bill would have increased the amount of ad-valorem for school land from about 10% to 100%. This money would have gone back to the counties that have the school land in them.
Instead, the Governor is allowing the money to stay in a building fund in Oklahoma City . In the past this fund has been used to plant trees on Lincoln Boulevard . The money should go back to the counties that produce the money in the first place. This will also help schools in these areas since about 75% of ad-valorem taxes go to education.
The Governor said that such a change would be unconstitutional. However, this money can be spent any way that the Legislature designates according to the constitution. Senator Laughlin and I will file the bill again next year and hopefully the Governor will receive accurate information next time. It is far past time for our counties to be reimbursed for the school land that produces revenue for all of Oklahoma schools.
Boise City News