Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Charles McCall (R-Atoka) told state agencies to hold off on program and service cuts after nearly three weeks of this year’s rare special session at the Oklahoma state capitol have proved fruitless.
“The state has available cash that the House could appropriate to protect healthcare services…,” McCall said in a release sent Thursday evening. “These monies would delay the cuts into 2018 or until a strategic budget solution is reached.”
Most recently, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced it would be forced to reduce or possibly end programs for nearly 189,000 outpatients after being told they would need to cut $75 million. The Departments of Health and Human Services were also impacted.
Lawmakers have been tasked with reaching an agreement on a budget that would replace $215 million in lost revenue after the state supreme court struck down a cigarette tax that was passed, unconstitutionally, in the last week of the regular session.
After several failed attempts to create a budget, legislators recessed the special session. Lawmakers only officially worked for two days before recessing.
“The reality is, we could avoid cuts altogether and provide consistent funding for healthcare if House Democrats would simply bring 22 votes to match our 54 votes for the cigarette tax,” McCall said.
However, Democrats took aim at McCall saying he’s the one to blame for the no-deal status of the budget.
“The Speaker of the House has jurisdiction over which bills go up for a vote. By refusing to put forth measures on the floor, the Speaker is silencing your voice,” Rep, Mickey Dollens (D-OKC) wrote on Facebook.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman said House Republicans have made counter offers during negotiations, but the parties are still split on raising the gross production tax on oil and gas wells. Democrats have asked for an increase, Republicans are opposed to an increase.
Members from all three parties in the negotiations have been meeting daily at the Governor’s Mansion while the Capitol was closed for repairs.