Watch KFOR Live Interactive Radar

$6.8 billion budget heading to governor’s desk after being approved by Oklahoma House

OKLAHOMA CITY - A controversial $6.8 billion budget bill will head to the governor's desk after it was approved by the Oklahoma House on the last day of the legislative session.

A Senate Appropriations document for Senate Bill 860 shows 51 agencies will experience some type of cut, 16 will see appropriations increases and one sees no funding change from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018.

The Department of Education will see a slight increase in funding by nearly one percent, while all other education agencies will see funding reductions between 3.42 to 4.87 percent.

"There isn’t a single one of us that’s thrilled with the numbers in this budget," said Sen. AJ Griffin.

"Is it the perfect budget? No. Will we ever see the perfect budget? No we won’t. We have to make choices," said Sen. Eddie Fields. "Sometimes compromise is a four-letter word that we don’t like to use sometimes. That’s the ugly truth in this building. You can’t govern from the right, you cannot govern from the left, you must govern from the middle. It’s compromise."

On Friday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill with a vote of 57 to 42.

Gov. Fallin released the following statement on Wednesday after the budget passed out of a committee.

“Developing a budget in this difficult fiscal and political climate is never easy. This plan keeps our government from shutting down. It is not an ideal budget, but it avoids draconian cuts to our core services such as education, health and human services, and public safety; unfortunately it leaves many agencies facing cuts for the sixth year in a row. It puts some recurring revenue on the table, but does not address the structural budget challenges that I have been working to fix since I took office. Year after year, I have repeated my warning about our reliance on one-time funding and our eroding tax base, and yet again we have crafted a budget that only fixes some of the defects in our funding formula.

“Let there be no mistake, there is still work to do. When legislators return next year, they will already face a $400 million hole caused by one-time funds and $100 million of obligations coming due over the next 12 months that will need to be paid. Hopefully, in the months that follow they will begin putting together a real plan to address the budget to fill that hole when they return in February of 2018 – an election year when we know it is difficult to pass revenue measures.

However, many lawmakers are concerned about the constitutionality of the way the budget was passed.

The Oklahoma Constitution states "no revenue bill should be passed during the five last days of session." It adds, no revenue bill can become law without a vote of the people or a three-fourths vote.

Yet House Republicans have spent the last several days pushing through legislation that bring in revenue with simple 51-vote majorities.

"We’re trying to follow both the spirit and the letter of the law of the Oklahoma Constitution," Rep. John Echols told NewsChannel 4. "The Oklahoma Supreme Court has defined revenue-raising measures as measures whose primary purpose is to raise revenue or changes in the permanent tax code. Revenue-raising measures have not been when we’ve made changes to exemptions in the tax code."

Outside groups have threatened lawsuits over measures they see as unconstitutional.

Legal challenges could put the Supreme Court in an awkward position, legal analyst Al Hoch said.

"I know the Supreme Court's not going to want to be in a position of 'Are we going to have to shut down state government; Are we going to have to take away teacher pay; Are we going to have to stop from fixing the road?'" Hoch said. "What do you want to do? Put the Supreme Court in the position to shut down the state."

If the court were to find the bills unconstitutional, lawmakers would have to find another way to raise the money they thought they had at the end of session, Echols said.

Depending on when such a ruling were handed down, that could mean a special session.

SB 860 now heads to the governor's desk for approval.

"We appreciate the Legislature's efforts this session, as lawmakers were under intense pressure to massively raise taxes on Oklahomans. Using one-time revenues during recessionary periods is never ideal, but it is preferable to permanent tax increases that cement unreformed spending. Given that total state spending is at an all-time high, many opportunities for additional spending reforms still exist. However, the Legislature deserves credit for passing a budget that minimizes damaging tax increases on Oklahomans compared to what was called for at the start of session,” Jonathan Small, the President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said in a statement.

Also making a statement, the CCOSA Executive Director Dr. Pam Deering.

“We appreciate the work of our legislators in this tough budget year and their efforts to protect funding for education. We realize that there were significant challenges across all of state government to fund the core services.

However, when you look at what our public school leaders have been through over eight years of cuts, we are still facing huge financial challenges. We have a growing student population, teachers are leaving the state in droves and we have a generation of students who deserve to have access to the educational resources they need to thrive and learn.

Unfortunately, we are ending the legislative session without a teacher pay raise or any long term plan for funding our public schools.

We appreciate the work of our legislators in this tough budget year and their efforts to protect funding for education. We realize that there were significant challenges across all of state government to fund the core services.

However, when you look at what our public school leaders have been through over eight years of cuts, we are still facing huge financial challenges. We have a growing student population, teachers are leaving the state in droves and we have a generation of students who deserve to have access to the educational resources they need to thrive and learn.

Unfortunately, we are ending the legislative session without a teacher pay raise or any long term plan for funding our public schools."

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services says it'll receive nearly $700 million but that is $33 million short of its current budget obligations.

“We will be evaluating our options as well as priorities for the next year, preparing to make some very difficult decisions,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We certainly appreciate that this appropriation is higher than what we were given last year considering the state’s fiscal circumstances. However, after several years of making reductions to meet the demands of new, unfunded costs, revenue failures, and losses of federal funding, we are not going to be able to balance our budget without significant consequences to services and our ability to administer them effectively.”