Questions Over State Budget Could Mean Massive Cuts To Oklahoma Services

Thursday, June 22nd 2017, 11:25 am
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The state’s budget woes didn’t end when the legislative session did. 

A state board must now certify the numbers the legislature came up with. At least one member, however, believes the figures are unconstitutional and could lead to massive cuts in services. 

After negotiations broke down between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature, Republicans passed several fees in the last week of the session including a tobacco fee that’s already been contested. According to a state statute the legislature can’t pass any revenue measures in the last week of session.

Next week, the board of equalization, made up of seven people including the state auditor and the governor, will be asked to certify the figures. 

"There are some items they passed in the last week of session that have been challenged,” State Auditor and gubernatorial candidate Gary Jones said. “I've read the constitution, article 5 section 33 and it gives me pause as to whether or not those items were approved correctly."

Jones is on the state Board of Equalization. He said he's still trying to decide what to do. He doesn’t believe the fees were constitutional, but a supreme court ruling says the numbers can stand as legal unless successfully challenged in court.

Jones says the amount in question could be anywhere from $200 million to $500 million. 

"I personally don't like it, the fact that we got put into this situation where we have a conflict of what we believe may be our constitutional oath of office and having to serve by a number that we might deem not being correct," Jones said.

News 9 requested an interview with the state’s Secretary of Finance and Revenue, but we we have yet to hear back.