Back To The Drawing Board On Oklahoma Budget Deal

Wednesday, May 17th 2017, 6:53 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

After a Republican plan to bridge the state’s nearly $900 million budget shortfall failed Tuesday night it was back to the drawing board for lawmakers. 

By law, the legislature has just nine days left to fill the budget gap. So far, they’ve only identified about $60 million to recoup of the $900 million shortfall.  

Wednesday they passed bills to spend money the state simply doesn’t have.

“It’s a deal we made and we’ve got to live up to our deal. Period,” Representative Earl Sears (R) Tulsa told his colleagues. 

The House of Representatives agreed to pay $72 million in school taxes on behalf of various industries. The largest industry is the wind industry which will get $60 million, as part of an incentive deal.  The money will be paid out of the Rainy Day Fund once it has been refilled.

“Quite frankly there’s only about $2 in that account, because as you well know we have borrowed from the Rainy Day Fund, the constitutional reserve fund too. I’ll make the term, meet payroll,” Sears said.

Representative Jason Dunnington (D) Oklahoma City said, “Parents of children in OKC public schools, that have been cut $36 million in the last two years, don’t believe you that the money is going to be there because they have been cut more than once in the last two years because we’ve been wrong on our revenue numbers.”

Sears responded, “We’re confident that the money will be there. OK?  But to your point, if it’s not there it’s not gonna be pretty. It’s just that simple.”

A House committee also passed a plan for a teacher pay raise, even though the author, Representative Michael Rogers (R) Tulsa, couldn’t say exactly where the money would come from.

“I do think there will be some more things moving forward. For us it’s important we build this $54 million into the budget. With a nearly $7 billion budget I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to do that.”

Representative Eric Proctor (D) Rogers responded, “There’s no budget plan. Not only a budget plan there’s no revenue to put into a budget to get anywhere close to a budget plan. Do you not have a concern that by not having the mechanism to pay for this we’re going to be making a promise to a teacher and when we break it that’s going to be one more reason for them to go to Springdale or Wichita?”

Legislative leaders on both sides of the isle met Wednesday. Still, members of the House of Representatives have been told to prepare to be here all weekend.