Work continues on the state budget as we head into the final month of the legislative session. Ongoing negotiations will ultimately determine how the budget pie will look for Fiscal Year 2022.
While we don’t yet know what the final numbers will look like, we can look at a snapshot of the current budget year and how the budget sits right now. For budget year, FY’21, I can tell you that the total state appropriations were $7.8 billion. The lion’s share of those dollars, 51 percent, went to education. Twenty percent went to health and social services, while human services and public safety and judiciary received 11 percent each. Natural resources and regulatory services received two percent, and general government and transportation received five percent.
Remember that in addition to state appropriations to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the agency also receives earmarked funds, which are dollars that are set aside for specific purposes that do not go through the appropriations process. This special earmarked money was the result of legislation approved in 2006 called the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund. It’s used for construction, maintenance and the planning of state highways, farm-to-market roads, county highways and bridges. The apportionment to the ROADS Fund has been increased multiple times since then, and its current level of $575 million was established in FY’13, helping address long neglected transportation needs due to inadequate funding.
Because of the ROADS Fund, ODOT’s 8-Year Plan will repair or replace 609 bridges, 804 miles of rural two-lane highways with deficient shoulders, and improve 3,126 miles of highway pavement. In all, the plan contains 1,350 projects with an estimated cost of $6.2 billion. These investments are making a huge difference in our transportation infrastructure. In 2004, Oklahoma had 1,168 structurally deficient bridges, ranking our state 49th in the nation. In 2019, that figure was reduced to 86, and we were ranked 9th in the nation for our bridges. That’s a vast improvement and shows the program has been a major success for our transportation system.
I’m also very pleased to report that two Senate bills to help manage dramatic spikes in energy costs after February’s historic winter storm have been signed into law by Gov. Stitt. These measures create a framework for securitization of the approximately $4.5 billion in increased energy costs from the winter storm. Without legislative action, customers could have seen their utility bills climb by thousands of dollars over a period of months, and that would be financially devastating to most Oklahomans. This allows that increased cost to be spread out over a period of years, protecting seniors, families, individuals and small businesses in every part of our state, including here in Senate District 21.
I thank you for the privilege of being your voice at the State Capitol. If you have any questions or concerns about legislation or other issues at the state level, please feel free to contact my office by calling 405-521-5572, or email Tom.Dugger@oksenate.gov.