On Wednesday, I joined members of the House and Senate for a press conference with Gov. Stitt to announce our budget proposal for FY2020. The budget proposal balances the needs of our state agencies while also preparing us to weather a future economic downturn.
Our budget puts $200 million into our state savings account, which puts Oklahoma on the path to storing two months of expenses to protect core services in difficult times. One reason why state agencies were cut so severely over the last few years was because Oklahoma didn’t have money saved up to help sustain programs when our economy suffered. As a state that relies heavily on our fluctuating oil and gas industry, it’s essential that we have a plan in place to protect our agencies and citizens the next time our economy takes a hit.
There are several sections of the budget that I am particularly excited about because they are specifically geared to help rural Oklahoma.
Our budget proposal includes $1.1 million for Wildfire mitigation funding and additional resources for rural fire fighters. Our rural fire stations are not up to the standard that they should be, and our communities are suffering as a result. I’m glad our legislative leaders recognize the importance of supporting our rural firefighters and their communities!
In the area of infrastructure, our budget proposes full funding for OK Dept. of Transportation (ODOT)’s 8-year plan. This is a comprehensive plan to repair our state’s collapsing and dilapidated roads and bridges, many of which are in rural Oklahoma.
The proposed budget also restores $30 million in funding to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Program. This is a program through ODOT that constructs or repairs county roads or bridges on the county highway system, which is completed in five year phrases in counties across the state.
Our budget proposal also includes $62.8 million for Graduate Medical Education program to support physician training for rural hospitals to recruit these talented doctors to rural areas. Many rural citizens have to take time off work and travel several hours to see a high-quality physician or specialist. Our citizens deserve capable, skilled physicians to care for them in a convenient and safe place.
Now that we have a budget agreement, we’ll begin hearing budget bills in our Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. Once bills pass through there, we will start to hear these budget bills on the chambers’ floors before they are sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
The Legislature must adjourn by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May, and we’re on track to adjourn by then and hopefully sooner.
As always, please reach out to my office with questions about specific legislation or an area of the budget. Thank you for the chance to represent the District 65 community!
Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, a Republican, represents District 65 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Grady and Stephens Counties. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (405) 557-7305.