The full Senate has given its approval to a 2012 General Appropriations (GA) bill that will result in a balanced budget with minimal cuts to core services like education and public safety in the face of a $500 million shortfall.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman praised Appropriations Chair David Myers, R-Ponca City, for his leadership in a challenging budget year. He also praised Senate Republicans for supporting a fiscally conservative plan that will ultimately strengthen Oklahoma.
“This budget is as much about saving and living within our means as it is about spending,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We have passed historic pension reform that will save our state over $6 billion and we are passing a balanced budget that includes an income tax cut. We have right-sized state government and we are making the state as efficient as possible with this budget. When is the last time the legislature saved as much as they spent?”
"This is a sad day for Oklahoma. Despite bipartisan opposition to the 2012 budget, the measure was narrowly approved by the Senate on a vote of 26 to 17 on Tuesday. Republicans, who for the first time control both the executive and legislative branches of government, claim they had no choice but to slash the budget by $500 million. These are budgets that had already been cut to the bone in three previous rounds of cuts." Senate Democratic Leader Andrew Rice said in a statement.
Bingman said he remained cautiously optimistic with trends indicating the state is slowly emerging from the worst days of the national recession, but stressed lawmakers had to write a budget based on levels certified by the State Equalization Board. While drafting the 2012 budget, lawmakers were confronted with the reality of a half billion dollar budget hole.
“Senate Democrats made it clear they would have preferred higher taxes, causing even greater hardship for Oklahoma families and struggling businesses,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Senate Republicans stood together to pass a balanced budget that will leave our state stronger and more secure in the long run.”
“I’m proud of our members for the courage they’ve shown in the face of these challenges,” Bingman said. “It is disappointing but not surprising that Democrats would rather throw rocks than help us bridge this shortfall and work together to strengthen our economy.”
The text if the 52 page bill can be found here.