Gov. Mary Fallin met with legislative leaders Tuesday morning to discuss the possibility of a special session to distribute the $140.8 million surplus discovered at the end of FY2016.
Fallin, who spoke after a separate press conference, said she met with current leaders, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Farview, and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. Pro Tempore designate Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and House Speaker designate Charles McCall, R-Atoka, were also at the meeting.
The governor said there was no clear indication about whether the leadership would approve a special session, a possibility with which legislators have expressed displeasure. Fallin suggested calling for a special session to redistribute the surplus money last week.
Fallin also reiterated on Wednesday, her desire to call the session to avoid the passage of the 1-cent sales tax increase for education funding on the ballot in Nov. 8. The increase, outlined in State Question 779, is expected to create $615 million to be used in part to create funds for teacher pay raises which were a main budget goal for the governor this past year.
The state question has been met with opposition from anti-tax groups and municipalities which say the tax would create a severe burden on small businesses, cities and towns.
“I would like to see us prioritize our spending,” Fallin said. “When you have $140 million versus just allowing every agency to get some portion of that money, It'd be wiser to prioritize it to the very important needs in our state.”
However, Schulz said he would prefer to see the money reallocated back to agencies which were asked to cut funds after a second revenue failure in the spring. He also said he did not think the governor would call a special session the legislature was in favor of.
When asked if a session was called would anything actually get done, Schulz brought up past failed efforts to convene a special session.
“There's a couple of instances in the past 30 or 40 years that governors have called special sessions and either the legislature showed up to adjourn or did not show up at all,” Schulz said.
Schulz also said there were no further scheduled meetings with the governor to continue the discussion but was confident there would be more meetings in the future.