Carl's Capitol Comments
All eyes on the budget bills
May 18, 2022
All focus is on the state budget this week. All parties have been involved in the discussion at this point, and while we're not in total agreement, we are close.
We anticipate budget bills will be heard in our Joint Committee on Appropriations & Budget this week and then will be heard on the floors of each legislative chamber.
While I can't give many specifics of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget at this time, I can say we anticipate giving our Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers a well-deserved raise. It's been seven years since their last pay raise. We're trying to make trooper salaries competitive with what municipalities are paying for other positions. This will help us retain seasoned troopers as well as recruit strong candidates to fill open positions and those left by retirees.
We also were able to fund substantial raises for corrections officers and probation and parole officers through an increase of appropriations last year to the Department of Corrections and an expected increase again this year.
We have about $10.4 billion to appropriate this year, but $1.3 billion of that is in non-recurring funds. We will use that for one-time expenses and to save. State revenues continue to be strong, with over $1 billion reported for April. But with the price of oil and gas up and inflation high, as well as federal relief dollars still impacting the economy, we will need to be conservative in our approach to spending.
Aside from the budget, the House has been working on moving bills amended in the Senate through the legislative process. If Senate amendments are accepted, the bills move to the governor for his consideration of signing them into law. If amendments are rejected, a conference committee must be requested where final language is negotiated. Bills that emerge from conference committee must gain final approval in each legislative chamber before moving to the governor.
Several of the ad valorem tax protest bills we proposed this year are currently in the conference committee process. House Bill 3901 would allow the Court of Tax Review to hear complaints challenging a county board of equalization's valuation of property that exceeds $3 million and to schedule a conference within 20 days of an answer filed by the county assessor. This could speed the process for larger protests, which is important to counties and schools that rely on ad valorem funding.
House Bill 2627 would require county assessors to notify every school district and any other entity affected within five days of a tax protest, and to provide updates on the status of the process including when it is complete and the amount to be apportioned. There is also HB4413, which deals with third party appraisers. All of these bills are in conference committee and working on final language.
We passed other good legislation this year. I'll update that along with budget specifics in future columns.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me. You may reach me by email at [email protected], or phone me at 405-557-7339. God bless you and the State of Oklahoma.