Press Releases

6.28.06 Gov. Henry Approves State Budget Boosting Investments, Providing Tax Relief

Oklahoma City -- In the wake of the recently concluded special legislative session, Gov. Brad Henry has signed 85 bills outlining the state budget for Fiscal Year 2007.

“While there was absolutely no reason the Legislature should not have finished its work in the regular session that ended last month, I am proud legislative leaders of both parties joined me in doing some great things for Oklahoma,” the Governor said. “We are making vital investments to ensure a vibrant economy, providing landmark tax relief for all Oklahomans and improving education.”

Under the tax relief package, the top marginal income tax rate will drop from its current 6.25 percent to 5.5 percent over the next three years. If the economy continues to grow, the rate would be lowered to 5.25 percent in subsequent years. The measure also includes an elimination of the inheritance tax over the next three years and a phase-in that raises Oklahoma’s standard deduction to the federal level.

“This package will translate into meaningful tax relief for all Oklahomans,” the Governor said. “As a result, families will have more of their hard-earned dollars for savings and investment.”

As part of the state’s commitment to elevate teacher pay to the regional average, Gov. Henry signed Senate Bill 2XX providing a $3,000 pay increase for every Oklahoma teacher.

“Education has always been the cornerstone of my administration. The first step in building a world-class educational system for students in Oklahoma is to attract and retain world-class teachers,” he said.

“Oklahoma has great teachers, but their ranks are raided every year by recruiters from other states. I set out three years ago to raise teacher pay to the regional average in five years and this pay raise is a solid step forward towards that goal of retaining the best teachers in the country.”

The budget also boasts Gov. Henry’s key agenda items for economic growth and job creation. Senate Bill 90, for example, appropriates $150 million to establish the EDGE research endowment.

“The EDGE research fund is critical to Oklahoma’s long-term success,” Gov. Henry said. “High-tech research is critical for a strong economic future, and this investment will give us an edge in the global competition for good jobs.”

The measure also helps move Oklahoma to the forefront of research and treatment for diabetes and cancer. SB 90 appropriates $12 million for the University of Oklahoma to establish a comprehensive diabetes center with locations in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The bill also directs $14 million to the comprehensive cancer center under development at OU.

“This vital investment in cancer and diabetes centers will increase Oklahomans’ access to cutting-edge medical treatment and develop new jobs in the promising field of medical research,” Gov. Henry said. “We are making great strides toward a healthier Oklahoma, both medically and economically.”

In addition, $45 million will establish the Oklahoma Opportunity Fund to help the state close deals when it is competing to have new or expanding businesses locate here.

“Many times Oklahoma has made the short list of contenders in a job competition, but we can’t react fast enough to provide requested incentives,” Gov. Henry said. “This fund will give us a lot more flexibility and improve Oklahoma’s chances of landing new jobs.”

Oklahoma motorists are also big winners in the state budget. As part of the Governor’s “Road to Progress” transportation initiative, an estimated $6 billion over the next 10 years will be pumped into the repair and maintenance of Oklahoma’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The annual budget on roads will increase from $200 million to $470 million each year. Funding for county roads and bridges will rise from $85 million to $170 million annually.

“Anyone who has traveled on Oklahoma roads knows that many of our roads and bridges need serious help,” the Governor said. “Thanks to this ambitious funding plan, help is on the way.”

The budget also includes several appropriations centering on public safety. As part of the Governor’s SafeNet initiative against online child predators and pornographers, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation received funding for a fulltime Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) unit.

“When one in every five children using the Internet is approached at some point by a sexual predator, something is very wrong,” the Governor said. “SafeNet helps law enforcement cast a light on those who lurk online and seek to harm our youngest citizens.”

The state’s war on methamphetamine is getting a boost, too. A $500,000 appropriation to the state Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control will put more drug agents on the street to crack down on the importation of meth from Mexico and other countries.

“Our historic anti-meth law has been a monumental success, but it is important that we not rest on our laurels,” Gov. Henry said. “The next phase in our efforts must be directed at trafficking that originates from south of the border. That is why we are giving OBN the resources they need to bear down hard on drug importation.”

In an effort to reduce cases of child abuse and neglect in Oklahoma, the budget also includes funding for 100 additional child welfare workers under the Department of Human Services.

The state budget for FY 2007 is an estimated $7 billion.