Fallin Announces Plan To Call For Special Legislative Session

Wednesday, September 6th 2017, 2:10 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Governor Mary Fallin is calling a special session of the legislature September 25th to bridge a roughly $500,000,000 budget shortfall.

Lawmakers got themselves into this mess because they couldn't agree on where to raise taxes and fees and where to cut spending and they may not be on the same page by the time the governor calls a special session.

The governor was not available for an on camera interview, but released a statement saying, "I am planning on calling a special session beginning September 25 for legislators to adjust the current fiscal year budget." 

"Adjust" suggests cutting services. Agencies have already been told to brace for 3.1 percent cuts. "I don't know about the governor herself but I have heard the house would prefer to go in, make cuts across the board, and gavel out," said Senator Ervin Yen (R) District 40.

House Speaker Charles McCall is not answering our questions about current negotiations on camera. 

Negotiations broke down in the final week of the session over a proposed tobacco fee and the gross production tax on oil and natural gas. Republicans passed the tobacco tax in the final days of session; a move ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court because lawmakers can't pass any revenue bills in the last five days of session. 

During the special session, Senator Yen says lawmakers have to raise revenues not cut programs. "So my preference would be to increase the GPT a little bit, maybe even seven percent, increase the fuel tax by maybe six cents, and increased the cigarette tax by $1.50. That would be my preference," Sen Yen said.

But with both houses at odds over revenue raising; partisan bickering and behind closed door deals going on right now, Yen doesn’t sound optimistic about the special session.

“No, I don't, but again the ball's in somebody else's court,”  Yen said. “You know what I'd vote for."

The Tobacco fee was expected to raise about $215 million annually in state money, but with matching grants from the federal government the state stands to lose about a half-billion.