I apologize for taking so long to write, but I have been extremely busy with our state budget. I am proud to have completed the 56th Legislative Session of 2017 and finally be able to say we passed the budget.
I was not totally satisfied with some of the revenue measures that helped fill the budget. I wanted a bigger increase in gross production taxes (GPT). In the end, however, I voted for a budget that will fund all core agencies and meet the needs of District 19.
I am proud to report that common education will be funded at the same apportionment as last year, but I am disappointed we were unable to agree on a teacher pay raise. I believe everyone wants a raise for our teachers and state workers. However, no agreements could be reached on how to provide adequate funding for raises. The House voted three times this session for a $6,000 pay raise for teachers, but the measures were struck down in the Senate. Many in the House likewise questioned where the funding would come from.
For me, one of the most important items in the budget is funding for elderly services. This budget does not reduce funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) and for the Department of Human Services (DHS). It ensures Medicaid provider rates are fully funded. This should protect elderly services like the Home Health Advantage Waiver Program.
This budget also ensures our state parks and driver license facilities remain open for the public.
I can say that as your newly elected state representative, I thought I would have more impact in deciding our state budget. Instead, I could only vote on these items that were put forward for a vote. Many of the items I wished to see brought forward were not. That is because our state is very diverse. Those who have wind energy in their district, which pays huge ad valorem taxes, oppose ending wind energy incentives. While those of us that have no wind energy very much support ending state funding incentives. Gross production is the same. Those who are enriched by oil and gas support low GPT and those who are not enriched fight to increase GPT.
I did not get the total budget package I wanted, but I am ready to return next year to contend for the needs of District 19. In the end, I feel the budget we passed will support our important state agencies and provide for the needs of Oklahomans.
But, you be strong and don’t lose courage, for there is reward for your work
(2 Chronicles 15:7).
Justin Humphrey represents Oklahoma House District 19. He can be reached at (405) 557-7382 or Justin.Humphrey@okhouse.gov.