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Fallin: Lawmakers Will Face 'Huge Challenges' To Bridge Budget Shortfall

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Gov. Mary Fallin began her State of the State Address Monday by warning lawmakers about the “huge challenges” they face trying to bridge an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall. 

“(I) told ya we were gonna have some hard talk today,” Fallin told a joint-session of the legislature. “We’re gonna get realistic.”

The governor covered a lot of ground, including her plan to cut most state programs by 6 percent and consolidate some school districts administration costs. 

2/1/2016 Related Story: Gov. Mary Fallin Delivers State Of The State Address

“It’s time to merge the administrative costs of our state’s under-performing K-8 independent school districts by putting them into existing K-12 districts,” she said.

The governor also praised the proposed $1.50 sales tax increase on cigarettes and discussed cuts in tax incentives. That didn't sit too with Democrats. 

“My caucus was shocked that Gov. Fallin would offer up $900 million worth of tax increases on middle class families to pay for her failed income tax experiment over the last several years,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman.

The one proposal Democrats did applaud was the governor's plan for prison reform, especially when it comes to incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. 

“These sentences, while well-intentioned, tend to send some of the most violent offenders into prison for years and years and years where they live alongside violent offenders whose bad influence can make nonviolent offenders worse,” Fallin said.

“She did make some bold statements in regard to criminal justice reform,” state Senator John Sparks, D-Norman said. “But I think you had to look at the room to realize that if the republican legislators move on that it will be the biggest surprise of the session.”

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