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Rep. Williams: Exciting first session at the Capitol

The Shawnee News-Star

Dear editor,

After proposing the budget last week, legislators came into the Capitol for an extra day so we could move the budget bills forward and pass other important legislation.

This week, the Legislature approved the appropriations bills to fund core government services for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins July 1. This budget appropriates $8.8 billion, which is a 14.3% increase over last year’s budget thanks largely in part to how quickly Oklahoma reopened our state after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This action gave us a much healthier budget outlook for the next fiscal year than other states who waited months to reopen.

The budget gives education its highest ever budget at $3.2 billion. Since 2018, the Legislature has provided a 25% funding increase to education. Also included in the budget is a $27 million increase for textbooks and increased money for the school activity fund.

It also leaves the state with our highest reserve balance in state history. We saw firsthand the importance of having a healthy savings account for the state just last year, when lawmakers pulled a portion from our state savings account to supplement the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our state’ budget. Having saved a portion of our budget when we were able helped our state weather the hard year and prevented major cuts to necessary state services.

House Bill 2900, the general appropriations budget, now moves to the Governor for his consideration.

As part of the budget, we’re also providing tax relief for individuals and businesses to spur additional economic development to further grow our economy. House Bill 2961 would reduce the top personal income tax rate from 5% to 4.75%, and its sister bill, House Bill 2962, cuts the corporate income tax from 6% to 4%. These tax cuts will showcase that Oklahoma is open for business and help entice businesses and workers to relocate to Oklahoma.

We are having a good budget year, significantly better than last year’s. Many of my colleagues who have served in the House for many years agree that this is the most comprehensive budget we’ve had in recent memory. I was very proud to vote for this budget to provide funding for education and transportation and give tax relief to Oklahomans and businesses!

Now that we’ve finished our constitutional responsibility of completing the budget, things are beginning to wind down at the Capitol. We’ll spend next week hearing our final bills of this legislative session, and the Governor has signed a number of them into law.

We’re constitutionally required to adjourn sine die by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May, and we’re on schedule to complete our session in time. It’s been an exciting first session at the Capitol!

Rep. Danny Williams, a Republican, represents House District 28 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. His district includes Seminole County and northern Pottawatomie County.