- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - While Oklahoma’s economy is rebounding strongly from the recession, the Legislature will have less money to spend on state programs due to a broken revenue system that needs to be fixed before it gets worse, Gov. Mary Fallin warned legislators Monday.

During her annual State of the State speech, the Republican governor told legislators that decisions they’ve made in the past to divert revenue to special programs or tax credits are hampering their ability to spend money in the best way they see fit.

“In 2007, the Legislature appropriated 55 cents of every dollar taken in by the government. Last year, that declined to 47 cents,” Fallin said. “That means that today, the Legislature has significantly fewer total dollars to appropriate than in the past, despite the state collecting significantly more money.”

Fallin also proposed that the Oklahoma Legislature spend every other year dedicated exclusively to working on the budget, without the distraction of legislation dealing with a variety of other topics. More than 2,000 bills and resolutions have been filed in the House and Senate for the legislative session that continues until the end of May.

Fallin’s proposal to focus just on the budget every other year appears to be gaining traction in the Legislature. House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman said his members support the idea and would like to spend more time working on the budget and less time on bills that deal with politically charged issues such as abortion, firearms and gay rights.

“The most important thing we do is spend or not spend the taxpayers’ money,” said Inman, an Oklahoma City Democrat. “And we do that every year with a budget that usually rolls out under the cover of darkness. We have a couple of days to vote on it, and then we all go home for the summer. That should change.”

Fallin also delivered her executive budget proposal for how she thinks roughly $7 billion should be divided among various state agencies. The governor is proposing lawmakers take $300 million from state agency revolving accounts to help offset a projected shortfall in next year’s budget. Under her proposal most state agencies would see cuts of about 6.25 percent, but she is proposing funding increases for public schools, prisons, mental health, human services and the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program.

Fallin also said she wants to increase the number of high school and college graduates, address prison overcrowding and improve the state’s health.

Inman, who described Fallin’s speech as one you might hear from a “middle-of-the-road Democrat,” said his 29-member caucus supports the governor’s emphasis on education, health care and public safety, but that he’d like to see more specifics.

“What you heard the governor do was highlight the true critical areas of need in the state of Oklahoma, but she failed to give us any real substance as to how she would address them,” Inman said.

Inman and House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman, a Fairview Republican, both said Monday they supported Fallin’s idea of taking a closer look at some of the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits and incentives the state hands out every year, and eliminating those that aren’t resulting in high-paying jobs.

The governor also urged the Legislature to consider a ban on texting while driving and to fund the completion of the Native American Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.

Fallin’s 34-minute speech began with a moment of silence to recognize two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers involved in a deadly car accident Saturday.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide