State Budget

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Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a $6.8 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.

By a vote of 57-42 just hours before the end of the legislative session today, the Oklahoma House passed Senate Bill 860, which cuts most state agency budgets by about five percent.

Supporters say the plan protects core services and closes a projected $878 million budget hole.

Mustang Republican Rep. Leslie Osborn:

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel about the $6.8 Billion budget presented to lawmakers with just a few days left in the 2017 as well as the revenue bills getting passed to pay for the nearly $900M shortfall and the process of releasing the budget shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

The trio also the failure of lawmakers to pass a teacher pay raise bill and the Oklahoma Democratic Party elects possibly its youngest chair in 24-year-old Anna Langthorn.

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The Oklahoma Senate passed a proposed state budget out of their chamber on Wednesday night, by a vote of 33 to 13.

Many Senate Republicans—like Mike Schulz—applauded themselves for holding 16 state agencies flat, and only cutting the rest by about four percent, given the circumstances.

"I just want to take this opportunity to thank this chamber.. Senator David, Senator Fields, all the sub-appropriations chairs, who have been diligently been working towards a solution for this budget for many, many months now."

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lawmakers got their first peek at Oklahoma’s budget last night in a haphazard midnight session senior legislators described as the most disjointed in their career.

House and Senate committee members had mere minutes to review the proposed $6.9 billion dollar budget before voting on two versions of the state spending plan.

The bills are nearly identical. One would give teachers a $1,000 pay raise. Both deliver funding cuts for most state agencies. Sixteen agencies, including the Departments of Education and Transportation, are in line for flat budgets.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a bill raising the gross production tax from one percent to four percent on a small, select group of oil wells.

By a vote of 68 to 30 on Tuesday morning, lawmakers passed House Bill 2429, which affects less than 6,000 wells drilled between July of 2011 and July of 2015.

But, some Democrats, like Oklahoma City Rep. Collin Walke, are calling the bill unconstitutional.

In a late-night committee meeting on Monday, lawmakers passed a measure that raises the gross production tax rate from one percent to four percent, but only on a small, select group of oil wells.

Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston), who is carrying House Bill 2429, says it will bring about $95 million in to the state. The bill would only affect about 5,790 wells drilled between July 2011 and July 2015.

The state’s budget uncertainty is making it difficult for schools to plan for next year. The deadline for districts to discontinue a teacher’s contract has already passed.

Shawn Hime with the Oklahoma State School Board Association says, on the other hand, if a district needs to hire more people, they don’t want to wait too long.

About 100 protesters were at the Oklahoma State Capitol this weekend, urging lawmakers to raise taxes on oil and gas companies in order to fix the state’s budget.

One protester, Kara Joy McKee, says Oklahoma is in a crisis, and it’s only fair that oil companies do their part to help.

"Our schools are going to four day schools, we’re having to close rural hospitals and nursing homes, it’s not time to let one industry set their tax rate any longer."

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about lawmakers working to increase revenue to fill a nearly $900 million shortfall in the budget, the House welcomes its newest member who won a special election in District 28 & a bill gets amended to dramatically change civil lawsuits and no one noticed.

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