Special Session To Begin Monday

Monday, September 25th 2017, 9:11 am
By: Grant Hermes

Lawmakers will head back Monday morning to the state Capitol to begin an ordered special session to fill a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Legislators are tasked with finding a way to make up for a $215 million gap created after the state Supreme Court struck down a $1.50 tax on cigarettes in August. The Court deemed the tax unconstitutional because it was passed after a constitutional deadline for revenue raising measures. 

Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order, calling for the rare summer session and said she would veto any proposals that would make cuts to state agencies already working on minimal budgets after the state faced a near billion-dollar budget deficit during the regular session.  

"It is apparent that rapid changes in our economy have created unsustainable and unpredictable revenue collection patterns,” Fallin wrote. “We need to seek long-term sustainability and stability as opposed to unpredictability and volatility.”

Fallin also said she wanted to see work done on teacher pay raises that went unfunded during the regular session despite promises from lawmakers. Adding the raises would mean needing to find an additional $60 million.

Last week, Democrats pushed to find funding by raising the gross production tax on oil and gas companies. The controversial increase prompted protests and eventually led to a political stalemate before the regular session wrapped up in May.

Speaker of the House Charles McCall had strong words for the governor and Democrats alike, showing signs there may be political fireworks in store for the session. 

"I appreciate the governor's desire to protect state agencies from further cuts, but, unfortunately, that's not realistic without using carryover cash and Rainy Day funds, which the governor has, so far, indicated an unwillingness to do,” McCall said. “As for the tobacco tax, I have no reason to believe the Democrats are willing to do the right thing on that issue.”

The session, called to fix a problem created by the Legislature, will cost taxpayers an estimated $30,000 per day and could last up to two weeks.