Budget Bill Passes Oklahoma House After Contentious Floor Debate

Nov 15, 2017

Governor Mary Fallin says she's uncertain what she is going to do with the latest budget bill to cover the $215 million shortfall. She has said in the past she would veto any measure which makes cuts to state agencies and spends cash reserves.

With the latest budget fix, Fallin says lawmakers are kicking the can down the road.

"For the sake of Oklahoma, for the sake of being able to provide the quality of life that we need for our citizens, the right business climate, having an educated, skilled workforce, we've gotta start addressing these problems. And I'm really worried about next year."

Fallin also says the use of one-time money will leave a $550 million hole in the budget for the next session.

She says she has been notified of businesses choosing to avoid relocating to Oklahoma with the budget situation the state is facing.

House Bill 1019 passed out of the State House by a vote of 56 to 38 yesterday and could be heard in the Senate tomorrow.

ORIGINAL POST:

A bill to fill an estimated $215 million budget hole and end the contentious eight-week long special session has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 1019 strikes roughly $60 million from state spending for the remaining months of the current fiscal year. It passed by a vote of 56 to 38.

In the proposal, lawmakers are temporarily patching the budget gap by cutting four dozen state agencies and raiding revolving funds or savings accounts from others. But Republican Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols says, at this point, they don’t have a choice.

"The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, the Health Department won't make payroll at the end of the month."

At points, the debate turned nasty. Some lawmakers accused colleagues of lying and others said the bill will hasten the deaths of vulnerable Oklahomans.

Lawmakers entered the special session to fill an estimated $215 million budget hole, created when the state Supreme Court ruled a cigarette fee passed earlier this year unconstitutional. Over the past seven and a half weeks, lawmakers have failed to pass several broad based tax packages.

If the bill doesn't pass this week, some state services could be in danger. Health and mental health agencies have said that if they don't get adequate funding by December 1, they will be forced to eliminate programs helping the elderly, disabled and children.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where it could be heard as early as Thursday.

Governor Mary Fallin had previously said she would not sign any plan that makes further cuts to state agencies. Lawmakers now say she’s on board with this stop gap measure.