OKLAHOMA CITY – Lawmakers convened for a second special session on Monday afternoon.
Late Friday evening, Gov. Mary Fallin officially issued an executive order to formally call for the second special session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
Lawmakers are expected to address immediate budget issues facing the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program called Soonercare, while continuing negotiations on long-term budget solutions.
Last month, Fallin vetoed most of a revised budget bill from a first special session. That budget bill included cutting $60 million from 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 immediate focus at hand, according to Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is to fund the Healthcare Authority and the Department of Human Services through April.
“What we’re going to use to plug the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority budget and, hopefully, if the governor amends the call to the DHS budget, is the money that has not been appropriated from the increase in the gross production tax of what has been called the legacy wells,” Echols said.
Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said the money from legacy wells is not much.
“That revenue would have gone into the General Revenue Fund in one year anyhow, because of the way GPT works,” Dunnington said. “What we really need is part of a package revenue bill, is we need an increase in GPT on new wells going forward.”
Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, said there are other areas lawmakers ought to be looking at.
“We need to look at consolidation of agencies, we need to look at tax credit, tax exemptions that we could use to help with the situation,” Cleveland said.
Lawmakers on both ends of the aisle agree a long-term solution is not going to be reached overnight. According to Echols, there have already been talks of new revenue and reform ideas.
“The key is how do we make sure we don’t get back in this position? One of the things we’re finding out through the House committee is that there are some systemic problems inside the way we do government in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.
House lawmakers are expected to convene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The Senate budget committee will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday.