The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

May 29, 2012

Fallin inks $6.8 billion budget for Oklahoma government

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin signed 17 bills into law on Tuesday, including a much-debated $6.8 billion plan to fund Oklahoma state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The general appropriations bill was the result of negotiations between Fallin's office and leaders in the House and Senate, and it emerged last week in the waning days of the legislative session.

The bill failed on its first vote in the House when the Democratic minority, who were concerned it didn't provide enough funding for education, teamed up with Republicans who thought the bill was bloated or were upset with how the deal was reached. The measure ultimately passed on a second vote in the House, when a handful of Republicans switched their vote.

"The budget passed this year is a fiscally conservative blueprint for state government that largely holds the line on spending," Fallin said in a statement. "It does so while providing targeted increases for specific needs and areas in which we know the state must improve, including child welfare services, education, road and bridge repair, access to health care, and public safety."

While the budget for most state agencies were flat and received no increase in state appropriations, the bill did include targeted increases for a handful of state agencies. Overall, the bill represented an increase of more than 3 percent over last year's spending.

Among the budgetary increases was an additional $50 million for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to beef up its child-welfare services as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit over the care of children in its custody. The bill will allow the agency to hire more child-welfare case workers and increase their training. The measure also includes $4 million to pay for legal fees connected to the federal class-action lawsuit.

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