Capitol Week In Review: Session Shortened After Winter Weather
OKLAHOMA CITY - It was a short week for lawmakers; they were only in session for a few days because of the weather. But they accomplished a lot.
The week started off with a pep talk from Senator James Lankford (R) Oklahoma. “That’s the reason we all ran, is to be able to engage and solve problems,” Lankford told state lawmakers.
Despite that, the House made the decision to close out fiscal year 2018 without any real long-term solutions to the state’s budget problems.
After two special sessions, a tobacco tax deemed unconstitutional, and an endless stream of bickering the House voted to wave the white flag on 2018 and instead, focus on 2019.
“There were no additional monies available so today we used some of the cash that was on hand, we had about 20-million dollars in cuts across all state agencies,” said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader.
A few days later, the Senate followed suit.
“It’s time to cut and put a fork in 18 and be done with it,” said Senator Mike Schulz (R) President Pro Tempore.
Lawmakers also heard from the board of equalization. That’s the board that monitors tax revenue. Turns out, in 2019 we expect a budget hole or $167.8 million. That’s better than the $1.2 billion hole Oklahoma faced two years ago.
But Governor Mary Fallin says without revenue increases, state agencies can expect more cuts.
“If we don’t have any new revenue that comes up on the table we still could have approximately a 2.5 percent cut,” said Fallin.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education is asking for an additional $475-million in part, to fund $5,000 annual teacher raises.
“We want very much to inspire our young people to become teachers in a high impact career,” said State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Next week will be a busy week for lawmakers as they take up the bills they couldn’t discuss this week, including a controversial bill that would allow Oklahomans to carry a gun without a permit.