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Negotiations ongoing as Oklahoma House awaits budget bills

OKLAHOMA CITY – To move legislation forward, it’s a simple yes or no answer with the push of a legislator’s voting button. But it seems the buttons that are having to be pushed to find the money to fix the state’s budget shortfall are ones that are currently behind closed doors.

Early Tuesday evening, House and Senate leadership met with Governor Mary Fallin to find common ground between the two chambers to move a budget fix forward. On Monday, Senate Republican leadership balked at a bi-partisan package put together by House Republicans and Democrats.

“I think that we are at a point in the legislative process, that we always find ourselves in, about this time every year,” said Republican State Rep. Weldon Watson of the behind-the-scenes negotiations. “So we don’t really know what exactly is going to come up, but I am satisfied that we will see something.”

Something, that House leaders say should come as soon as Wednesday when the House reconvenes.

“We will just have to wait and see how it evolves, and hopefully we’ll have one of those quick agreements where we can get it all done in a few days,” said Watson, who is not a part of the negotiation talks.

“Are you optimistic that it might reach fulfilling that hole we’re facing, that $878 million?” NewsChannel 4's Bill Miston asked him.

“I think we have that potential and as you suggest, we will no doubt be meeting, for an extra day, should we need that,” he said.

A memo sent to House staff about end of session duties says the House will be working on Fridays through the end of session. Legislators normally leave for their home districts on Thursdays.

“We’re 13 days away and we have yet to come up with a substantial revenue measure to fill the $1 billion shortfall, so it’s time we get to the grind,” said Democratic State Rep. Mickey Dollens. “But it’s hard for us – as representatives – to create substantial revenue when no bills are being presented on the floor to vote on.”

Despite the recent setbacks, House Democrats hope the extra session days will provide some extra time to move the needle forward on fixing the budget.

“Time’s running out and revenue raising measures – the votes are needed,” said State Rep. Regina Goodwin. “Often, people draw a line in the sand; and it’s not about winning. It’s a sad day when folks think they’re winning here (at the Capitol), and Oklahoma’s not winning.”