Rep. Sterling: Governor signs budget

Rep. Danny Sterling

The Governor has signed the appropriations bill to fund state government services for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July. This budget increases common education funding by more than $210 million to a historic high of $3.2 billion. This will allow the reduction of classroom sizes in kindergarten and first grade, which is expected to lead to greater academic success for students throughout the remainder of their school years.

Also included in the budget is a $27 million increase for textbooks and increased money for the school activity fund. In addition to this budget are bills that would create funding equity for school districts with low property tax bases and increase per-pupil funding by getting rid of duplicate student counts in the school funding formula.

With this budget, Republicans have increased education funding by $776 million over five years. Schools also are receiving billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds.

Transportation funding increases with almost a $17 million increase in appropriations and a $200 million dollar investment in speeding up the 8-year plan through the federal TIFIA program. The Country Improvement for Roads and Bridges fund is likewise made whole with a $20 million increased appropriation.

This budget reduces personal income tax by 0.25% for all taxpayers and restores the Earned Income Tax Credit for low- to moderate income families and workers. It reduces corporate income tax from 6% to 4% to help the state recruit new businesses, create jobs and guard against federal tax increases under the current administration.

In addition, this budget allocates $42 million to expand broadband services to areas of the state that don’t currently have access to high-speed internet. This will help all Oklahomans connect to education, health care and other services, and it will help attract business to rural areas.

The budget also fully funds the state’s Medicaid expansion, approved by voters last year. The budget also includes several economic boosters, including $35 million to recruit new jobs to the state, as well as brings the state’s savings accounts back to almost $1.3 billion for FY22. This is the largest savings in state history. The pandemic showed how incredibly important it is to have healthy reserves in case of a downturn.

The Governor recently created a return to work incentive. The first 20,000 Oklahomans who are currently on unemployment to return to work may qualify to receive a $1,200 incentive. All federal benefits will end on June 26, 2021, giving Oklahomans six weeks’ notice to plan. Specific details on the incentive program and the federal benefits announcement are available at oklahoma.gov/oesc.

Lastly, the Oklahoma Main Street Center announced the launch of Main Street Online, a new tool developed by Main Street America to help small businesses grow and strengthen their online and ecommerce capabilities. The tool is available at no cost to any small business and provides guidance on Point of Sale systems, website platforms, content creation software and more. It was designed specifically for small businesses with 20 or fewer employees in the retail, service, and food and beverage sectors.

After last year, businesses saw an increased need for ecommerce capabilities. This tool will help Oklahoma businesses diversify the ways they do business, opening them up to increased success and a larger customer base. The tool assesses the unique needs of individual small businesses and offers customized guidance for implementing and maximizing solutions to improve their digital presence.

Main Street Online is available at mainstreetonlinetool.org.

If you should have any questions for me personally, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. You can reach me by email at Danny.Sterling@okhouse.gov and by my office phone at (405)557-7349.