State Lawmakers Call For Public Meeting To Discuss Budget Problems

Thursday, April 21st 2016, 7:49 pm

Republican lawmakers say they’re making progress on the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall. But they’re still miles apart on the numbers.

Last week, Governor Fallin released her latest budget proposal. It relies heavily on borrowing more than 500-million dollars for road and bridge improvements and shifting the savings to education. 

News 9 hasn’t found one lawmaker who was happy with the way the governor rolled out her plan. 

4/14/16 Related Story: Oklahoma Legislatures React To Gov. Fallin's New Budget Proposal

Thursday, April 21, she defended it, saying the state will shed much of its debt in 2018 freeing up cash to pay down the new debt.

“40 percent of all the bond debt on the state comes off the books. It’s already paid off so it’s a mechanism that we can use,” said Gov. Fallin.

Republican leaders of the House and Senate agree there will be some borrowing, but the governor's plan for 500-million, Speaker Hickman said, “Is not something that would have support in the house at that level. But I think our members are willing to look at some options particularly if there revenue sources that would be on the ballot."

Like, Speaker Hickman said, a tobacco tax. But Hickman said that will have to go to a vote of the people. And there probably aren't enough votes in the legislature to make that happen.

"I just gotta be honest with ya I don't know if we have the votes today to even send it to a vote of the people,” said Representative Earl Sears with the Appropriations and Budget Chair.

Sears said the state will have to borrow around 200-million dollars. The rest, he said, will be made up in part by repealing some tax credits.

“Wind, oil, affordable housing. That will be some of the hot ones.  And coal credits.  That will be some of the hot buttons,” said Sears.

Democrats said they won't support any borrowing.

“The idea that we're going to pass bonds to cover the hole this year leads us to realize that we're going to have to do the same thing next year except we'll also be paying interest,” said Senator Jim Sparks (D).

"Our caucus does not believe that bonding is the way to handle this particular budget. It will not solve the problem,” said Rep. Inman.