Budget bill that includes agency cuts heads to governor’s desk after passing Senate

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Senate leaders passed the latest budget bill Friday morning, ending the eight weeks of special session.

House Bill 1019 passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 14. It includes $60 million worth of cuts across various state agencies while also using $23 million in Rainy Day funds, $23 million in carryover cash from last year, and $60 million through revolving money to bridge the $215 million gap. The overall plan also includes a recently passed measure to raise the gross production tax (‘GPT’) on legacy wells.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner told her colleagues there was nothing easy about the vote.

"There is no choice. Health Department doesn’t make payroll if we don’t pass this bill today. All right? Not at the end of the month. Today," said Sen. David. "We’re not using a credit card. We’re paying cash and we’re down to where we just don’t have cash left."

There are also cuts to the three agencies that would have received $215 million from the cigarette fee, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Those agencies include the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. They are now facing cuts between $4 and $15 million, far better than the alternative according to supporters of the bill.

Under this bill, higher education would have to take a $17 million hit while the Department of Education, Election Board, and the Department of Corrections would be among those remaining unchanged.​

Opponents argued there had to be a better solution.

"I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m furious. I’m livid. I’m angry. I’m upset. I want to throw up every time I walk into this building but I’m not ready to quit fighting, because I don’t think we’ve done everything," said Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie.

The urge to continue trying was shared by Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City who also spoke in opposition of the bill.

"We have to push past our fatigue. We have push past our frustration, and we have to stay here until we get this done," said Sen. Floyd.

Looking ahead, Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City admits the next session doesn't look good.

Lawmakers will be returning February tasked with filling a budget hole of at least $500 million dollars from using so many one-time funds to balance this budget.

While Treat says the Senate has proved they are in support of revenue raising measures, he's not confident the House is.

"If people on the other side don’t want new revenue then we’ve got to trim government to the size that we can afford and live within our means," he said. "Every complex problem has a simple, straightforward and incorrect answer and everyone tries to give the simple solution, and simple solutions just won’t solve any problems. We’ve got a lot of heavy lifting to do."​

The bill now heads to the Governor's desk.


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