Oklahoma Lawmakers Send First Bill of Special Legislative Session to Governor's Desk

Nov 2, 2017

A bill that moves approximately $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the state’s mental health agency is now heading to the governor's desk. It's the first bill to pass both chambers since the special legislative session began six weeks ago.

House Bill 1081X allocates $23.3 million from the fund to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Proponents of the bill say it will allow the agency to continue to provide full services and programs through April 2018. But Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger strongly disagrees with this funding method.

"Perpetuating the theory that providing a small amount of funding to help agencies with the promise we can come back during regular session blatantly disregards the balanced budget requirement in our constitution," Doerflinger said in a release. "Turning a blind eye to the single provision that separates us from the lawlessness of the federal budget only dooms us to fall ever deeper into a fiscal crisis."

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma House of Representatives have passed a measure that effectively increases the tax on thousands of legacy oil and gas wells.

Oklahoma lawmakers are struggling in a special legislative session to agree on how to fill the state's approximately $215 million budget hole, and find long term funding for core services. Much of that debate has centered around raising taxes on oil and gas production.

On Wednesday, the House approved a measure that removes a tax discount on some oil and gas wells drilled after 2015.

Proponents say it would generate $100 million a year, and some of the money is set to fund a $1,000 teacher pay raise. Many Democrats opposed the measure because it only taxes a small number of wells in the state, and they say it doesn't go far enough to fix the state's budget problem.

The measure passed 64 to 31 and now heads to the Senate.