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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — After years of slashing budgets amid a downturn in the state’s economy, Oklahoma’s public schools and other agencies will receive boosts in spending under the largest-ever state budget approved by the Oklahoma Legislature that is making its way toward the governor’s desk.

The Oklahoma Senate voted 36-8 on Wednesday for the $7.6 billion general appropriations bill , which now heads to the House for final consideration.

Lawmakers are hoping to send the bill to Gov. Mary Fallin this week and adjourn the legislative session by Friday, May 4, about three weeks early.

The bill includes nearly $500 million in new spending for public schools, an increase of nearly 20 percent for education that mostly funded teacher pay hikes and was the subject of statewide teacher walkouts. In addition to funding teacher pay increases, the package of tax hikes on fuel, cigarettes and energy production lawmakers approved this year provided some additional revenue for textbooks, health insurance benefits, support staff raises and some money for classrooms.

Most state agencies will see budget increases ranging from 2 percent to 6 percent

“I feel like this budget is a huge step forward, especially for education and to be able to give some money to those areas that have been devastated over the last several years,” said Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, a key budget negotiator for the Senate.

The more than 10 percent increase over last year’s $6.8 billion state-appropriated budget came from a number of sources, including increased state tax collections and several revenue raising bills that passed last year, including one that increases the taxes paid on motor vehicle purchases. Lawmakers also tapped several one-time sources of revenue, including agency revolving accounts, which David said will be replenished next year.

Several Democrats argued the bill didn’t provide enough new revenue to ease cuts of more than 30 percent to some agencies that have been imposed amid budget shortfalls in recent years.

Senate Democratic leader John Sparks said the bill, which first surfaced on Monday, is being rushed through the Legislature so lawmakers can adjourn early and hit the campaign trail.

“That’s reckless,” said Sparks, D-Norman. “We have plenty of time to give this a thoughtful review.”


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