Oklahoma Legislature Set To Begin 2016 Session

Monday, January 25th 2016, 1:59 pm

It’s one week until the Oklahoma legislative session begins, and until lawmakers are forced to tackle an approximately $1 billion budget shortfall.

State Sen. Clark Jolley is the appropriations chair. He doesn't mince words about the budget crisis. 

“It’s going to be hard and nobody’s going to be happy at the end of the day,” Jolley said. 

Lawmakers are staring down the barrel of an expected $1.1 billion shortfall, and that means massive, across the board cuts.  In a recent poll, News 9 asked viewers what they want protected most. 

Forty percent of viewers said education should be protected, but don't count on it.  

"It’s going to be incredibly difficult for us to leave common education whole, if not near impossible,” Jolley said. “Just because of the sheer size common education is.”

Fifteen percent of viewers think spending for seniors and the elderly in nursing homes should be a top priority and 13 percent said road and bridge repair spending should be protected from cuts.

Lawmakers are also looking at pulling some tax exemptions and credits to try to get more cash rolling in. 

“Things that we’ve done either because of generosity and kindness that we don’t feel that these people should have to pay taxes or because we want to promote business growth and development,” Jolley said.

Lawmakers said, with a budget shortfall this big, nothing is off the table. 

“We’re not the federal government. We can’t print money,” Jolley said. “We’ve got to balance our budget and at the end of the year we’ve got to be at zero.”

The legislative session begins February 1.