The 2014 legislative session has come to an end. In the final weeks of the session we forged an agreement that balances Oklahoma’s budget in the midst of a $188 million shortfall. Our budget provides important funding increases for education and pay increases for high-need state employees like front-line corrections workers and state troopers. Altogether, more than 12,000 state employees will receive a pay increase in the coming fiscal year.
In total, education will receive $105 million in new funding. Higher Education and Career Tech budgets will remain flat, in order to ensure education is not affected by the shortfall. Additionally, we advanced important legislation to give families a voice in the Reading Sufficiency Act. We repealed the Common Core standards, enabling Oklahomans to retain control of establishing appropriate education standards.
After many years of disrepair, our state Capitol building will be getting a facelift. On Friday, the Senate approved legislation authorizing $120 million in bonds to finance repairs.
We also prevented a 700 percent increase in the gross production tax rate. The rate, which had been slated for an increase from 1 to 7 percent, will instead be set at 2 percent on all oil and natural gas wells drilled in the state for the first three years of the well’s life. After that period, the rate will return to 7 percent for the remaining life of the well.
This year, we advanced a fiscally responsible tax cut for Oklahomans. A tax cut from 5.25 percent to 5 percent will go into effect immediately, once state revenues hit the level they were at last year, when the cut was originally passed. The rate will reduce further to 4.75 percent when revenues are sufficient to cover the cost of the additional rate reduction.
Given the budget challenges we faced, I believe the 2014 legislative session was an overall success. The passage of important measures such as these set the table for continued progress in 2015 and beyond. I’m proud to be your Senator, and I’ll continue working on your behalf to make Oklahoma a better place for all of us.