A bill to bridge the state’s budget gap and provide raises to teachers and state workers died in the State House of Representatives Wednesday. Without the funding, the state will make massive cuts to services. Today, House leaders are preparing to unveil a plan they say will end the budget crisis and prevent cuts in crucial services.
Rebecca Jones and her son Rylan spent the day meeting with lawmakers, asking them to reach some type of agreement. Rylan, who is 19 years old, requires around-the-clock care and benefits from state services.
“He didn’t ask for this,” Jones said, “and it is not fair for our government to turn their backs on people like my son.”
The budget plan presented Wednesday got 71 votes, five short of the 76 needed to pass. It would have raised taxes to keep essential state services. House leaders will reveal a plan in the coming days that includes cuts to non-essential services and tapping into revolving funds. Those are payments state agencies get throughout the year for services. We’re told the state has about $1.3 billion in revolving funds.
Majority floor leader Rep. Jon Echols said, “We can’t continue to use seniors and our disabled, our elderly, our most informed as political pawns. It is immoral and unjust for the cuts to go into place on December first when we have cash in the bank.”
State Auditor Gary Jones says some of the money is earmarked for other things. “We don’t know if it’s restricted for a particular purpose. The question should be how much do you have that’s not restricted.”
Echols responded, “We could fill this hole twice with the funds we have in revolving funds we could access.”
Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa), who voted against Wednesday’s bill, said, “We’re in this situation because the House of Representatives and the Senate passed an unconstitutional bill that purposely tied these vital services to a bill they knew was unconstitutional. In my opinion, the budget was orchestrated to fail.”
Proctor questions whether there is enough money in revolving funds to cover the budget hole. The governor has said she is against using one-time money like revolving funds.
“Gov. Fallin says a lot of things that she takes back several days later,” Proctor said. “It’s been my experience over the last seven years is that she’s not very much of a leader and I don’t think that she has a whole lot of respect from either party.”
Echols added, “It’s insanity and it has to stop. And it’s using human beings as pawns. And it’s disgusting and I don’t want to be a part of it.”
House leaders say they’ve sent bills to the Senate that would wipe out 70 percent of the deficit but the Senate hasn’t acted on them. Senate leaders did not respond to a request for a comment.