After months of political battles, the legislature has passed a nearly $6.9-billion spending plan. But, the budget battle will likely go from the Capitol to the courtroom.
Friday, the State House of Representatives passed the spending plan presented by Republicans after negotiations broke down with Democrats. Democrats said the budget is not constitutional, and will leave the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole.
“I can honestly say this is the least transparent budget process we’ve ever had,” said Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa.
Budget negotiations broke down after Republicans and Democrats couldn’t find common ground on the tax on oil and natural gas production, called gross production. So, Republicans presented a bill that didn’t need Democrat votes to approve. But, it depends largely on revenue bills passed after the constitutional deadline for raising money. Bills like, an additional $1.50 added to a pack of cigarettes.
“We’d like to call this the smoking cessation and prevention act of 2017,” said Representative Leslie Osborn (R) Budget Chair as she presented the bill.
“This is a FINO.” Representative Collin Walke (D) Oklahoma City said, “A fee in name only. You cannot pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”
Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa agreed, “This budget is on extremely shaky ground. And to me that’s not a political statement. That is a very very strong concern.”
The spending plan calls for 4-percent cuts to most agencies. It does hold the line on spending for common education, but does not cover promised raises for teachers.
“Teachers that I know personally, principals that I know personally that are leaving the state because this body made a promise that they could not keep,” Representative Regina Goodwin (D) Tulsa said.
Representative Steve Kouplen (D) Beggs said, “Governor, veto this bill, send it back to the drawing board. We can do better than this.”
Governor Mary Fallin said she won’t veto it, but if it turns out some of the spending plan is unconstitutional, she could call a special session. Then, it’s up to legislators if they want to come back.
“So, if they tell me they tell me they don’t want to come back in then we’ll have to have automatic cuts. It’ll be across the board by the way,” Fallin said.