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House and Senate budget committees pass allocation bills

OKLAHOMA CITY - Lawmakers on House and Senate budget committees have passed two bills allocating money for two agencies.

One bill would allocate more than $17 million to the Healthcare Authority, while the second bill secures $26.5 million for the Department of Human Services.

Both would take money collected from legacy wells. During the first special session this fall, the Legislature passed a bill which raised the gross production tax on legacy wells to 7 percent.

"That’s how we operate our budget. We have an estimate about how much should come every month from these wells and, as that money comes in, they go into those agencies," Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner.

While the two bills unanimously passed both chambers' committees Tuesday, some members questioned the implication should the revenue from the legacy wells not reach its projected amount.

"We don’t have data yet to actually know if the money that we say will be there is actually going to be there, but we’re going to go ahead and spend it because we’re already broke," said Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City. "I just think that’s indicative of the problem we’re already in right now."

David admits the revenue projection from the wells are mere estimates.

"Typically, we have a cushion in there of 1 percent to 5 percent that we’re fine with. If in any time the money doesn’t come in as estimated and it’s over that 5 percent window, then that’s when we have revenue failures," she said.

The bills, if ultimately passed during the second special session, would provide enough money for the Healthcare Authority and the Department of Human Services through April.