Finally, I can talk about the state budget!
An agreement was reached last week between House and Senate leaders and the governor to appropriate $8.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July. Now, we just have to get the various budget bills passed through the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget and through the House and Senate and signed into law by the governor. This agreement makes that highly likely.
I want to highlight that there were no cuts to the agencies under my House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services.
The Department of Agriculture is probably the largest of my agencies, and they will be getting an increase of $300,000 for five new meat inspectors. We learned our weakness in this area during the pandemic. Having too few meat inspectors in the state caused a major slowdown in ranchers being able to have their cattle processed. This led to higher prices for consumers as well.
Agriculture also is being put in charge of county extension programs and agricultural research center funding. And, we are adding $150,000 to the department to bring back the Cattleman’s Congress. The congress came to Oklahoma this year after Denver canceled the National Western Stock Show event. This show is rich in the history of animal husbandry, ranching and agriculture, and it draws thousands of exhibitors and buyers who spend millions of dollars each year. We want to see Oklahoma become its permanent home. The heads of two major livestock breeds already have committed to returning to Oklahoma, bringing an estimated impact of $2.8 million to the state.
This budget also will allow us to continue to work on flood control infrastructure for high-risk dams that could cause major damage to communities should they fail.
We also will be able to obtain matching federal money from the Department of Environmental Quality for water studies of the Ogallala Aquifer to ensure irrigators are being good guardians of the water source and are being responsible in its use. Additional studies also are being funded on the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer to better understand its source and the effects of activities around the aquifer. Currently there is a one-mile setback for any excavation or drilling near this stream
The College of Veterinary Medicine will receive additional dollars to increase the number of instructors in our veterinary residency programs. Just like we need more doctors serving rural Oklahomans, we need more animal doctors as well.
We also will be saving about $800,000 this year to get our reserves back to over $1 billion. We found our savings very important during the pandemic, and we don’t need to be spending money just to spend it.
One area where we are increasing funding, however, is education. We are adding $210.3 million so we can reduce classroom sizes in kindergarten and first grade. This should help us improve student outcomes in subjects like reading and math. We also are equalizing funding for schools in low property value areas, and we’ll see an increase in per-student funding as we get rid of some duplicate student counts in the state funding formula.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you for allowing me to serve you at the State Capitol.
You may reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone me at 405-557-7339. May God Bless you and the State of Oklahoma.