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Agricultural News

State Budget Deal Done Includes 15% Cut for Oklahoma Department of Agriculture

Fri, 21 May 2010 7:08:31 CDT

State Budget Deal Done Includes 15% Cut for Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Democratic Gov. Brad Henry and Republican leaders of the House and Senate reached an agreement on a state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, several Democratic lawmakers said Thursday. Lawmakers have to build a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year with about $1.2 billion less to spend than they had last year. By using the remainder of the state's federal stimulus funds and money from state cash reserves, the budget hole is still estimated to be about $600 million.

Under the FY 2011 agreement, $6.68 billion in general revenue will be appropriated to state agencies and programs, K-12 education and career technology education will receive targeted cuts of just 2.9 percent and higher education's budget will be reduced by 3.3 percent.

The Department of Public Safety will be cut by only 1 percent and the Department of Corrections will receive a 3 percent reduction.

The cut to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture will be one of the steeper cuts made to a state agency, as the ODAFF faces a fifteen percent cut compared to the Fiscal Year 2010 allocation of $30.777 million dollars- the FY 2011 allocation for the Department is 26.307 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission actually sees an increase of 9% compared to the FY 2010 budget at $9.845 million slated for this agency in the 12 month period starting July first.

Click here for a look at the Appropriations planned for FY2011 versus FY2010 to the various agencies of the state.

One program that survives after being zeroed out by Governor Henry's budget proposal is the Rural Economic Action Plan- otherwise known as REAP. REAP takes a seven percent cut for the coming Fiscal Year with the deal calling for $12.4 million dollars for the program.

Two rural lawmakers issued statements on Thursday afternoon praising the inclusion of the REAP program in the budget deal. Senaator Ron Justice of Chickasha is the Chairman of the Senate Rural Caucus and offered this statement after the Budget Deal was Announced:

“Rural Oklahoma has a tremendous impact on our state and nation. We are a state full of hardworking families who take pride in Oklahoma values.

“As a rural member of the Senate, I along with many of my fellow colleagues stood together in fighting for REAP funding. We knew that in order to protect rural Oklahoma and continue moving our state forward, REAP needed to be a vital aspect of the budget.

“The Governor, Pro Tempore and Speaker have worked tirelessly to craft a budget in a bipartisan fashion that meets the states needs and I commend them for their efforts.”

On the House side- Mike Sanders, Republican from Kingfisher quickly got a news release out, expressing his satisfaction that the REAP has survived for FY 2011.

“From day one of this session, other rural legislators and I have vowed to oppose any effort to eliminate programs that benefit rural Oklahomans,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I am pleased our efforts have been successful. Like many areas of government, the REAP program is taking a budget cut this year, but the program remains intact.”

            The Rural Economic Action Plan pays for infrastructure needs in rural communities. Gov. Brad Henry’s original budget proposal called for eliminating the program during the downturn.

            “REAP grants help protect our rural way of life,” Sanders said. “The program helps pay for fire stations, puts police cars and ambulances on the streets, and even funds tornado sirens, which have proven invaluable this week. I believe the REAP program provides an important public service, which is why I and other rural legislators fought so hard to preserve it.”

            Sanders noted the budget agreement also preserves tax credits that help pay for rural volunteer firefighters to obtain training. Early in the session, the governor had also suggested eliminating those tax credits.

            “Obviously, in this down budget environment we have to make some tough choices, but I felt it was shortsighted to financially penalize rural firefighters who volunteer their time and risk their lives to protect their neighbors,” Sanders said. “Preserving the firefighter tax credit was another important victory for rural Oklahoma.”



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