Late last week the House and the Senate came to an agreement over supplemental funding for several different entities. The bipartisan agreement covered several different pressing needs in the state. This agreement allows about $184 million dollars to meet several pressing needs for agencies to finish the year with a positive cash flow.
An outstanding feature of the supplemental was the $125 million that went to renovating our crumbling bridges and roads. Of that amount, $25 million will be set aside to help specifically with county bridges. This represents an unprecedented yearly investment in our transportation system and will help our rural infrastructure tremendously. The highway funding bill that will come later in the session will add another $125 million plus to road maintenance.
Another $24 million was appropriated for corrections and with $3 million set aside to fund pay raises at the facilities. The rest of the money along with about 8 million in surplus salary funds will enable the Department of Corrections to meet all its obligations for the present fiscal year, barring any unforeseen occurrences.
The Department of Agriculture will receive $3.6 million to be paid to rural firefighters fighting wildfires in the state. This cost is ongoing and another installment will be made in the 2007 budget to help shore up the budgets of those who have been fighting the hardest to protect our land and property.
Other funding included $4.6 million to OHLAP (Oklahoma Higher Learning Access program) to offset casino gaming revenue shortfall, $3.8 million to the state Supreme Court, $5.4 million will go to increase the amount on hand to help with winter heating bill assistance (LI-HEAP). Seventeen million will also go to fund Oklahoma 's centennial celebration.
The corrections funding supplemental and the amount going to the Department of Agriculture passed the floor of the House today. Without a dissenting vote, the rules were suspended to consider the matter, and each bill passed unanimously. How was this possible since there was such rancor and no cooperation the previous week? That week, almost everyone voted along party lines not to suspend rules and no bill was passed.
The difference is this week that the two negotiators for the House and Senate had come to an agreement. The specifics of the supplemental must also fit into the overall picture of the budget agreement. Supplemental amounts are usually then added to next years budget annually in a process termed annualization. This amount must also fit into the larger budget picture. Sometimes the amount offered for a supplemental will not have enough funding to make it a yearly expenditure.
Both the Senate and the House have different priorities and agendas. Each must give in order to make each piece of the puzzle fit into the bigger picture. That's why individually a problem may appear easy to solve, but when considered as part of the larger budget picture it becomes much more complicated.
The framers of the Oklahoma constitution made sure that both chambers of the legislative branch would have to work together along with the executive branch in order to get anything accomplished. That way no one person, party or branch of government is able to do much individually. But working together they can accomplish much for Oklahoma . This supplemental funding agreement is an example of that principle.
Boise City News