OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After months in session, it looks like lawmakers are close on a final Oklahoma State Budget. The way budget leaders are getting to the final numbers is causing a stir in the halls of the Capitol.
The budget process begins well before session kicks off in February, but after four months, initial meetings have just begun to pass the finalized budget.
Just like most things at the Oklahoma State Capitol, the process to get there is split down party lines.
“I can’t tell you what’s in the budget yet here at 10:30 on Monday morning and we going to be voting on it this afternoon,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. “What I can tell you is that it will not reflect the needs and desires of every community in Oklahoma, and I know that that is a tall order, but we can do a hell of a lot better than we are doing now.”
House Democrats speaking out on the budget process as lawmakers prepare to vote on how billions in taxpayer dollars are spent.
House budget leaders say there are plenty of meetings open to lawmakers throughout the sessions to be in-the-know.
“It’s hard work and a lot of times people aren’t that serious about doing the work. They don’t show up to those meetings. So if you don’t show up to those meetings, I don’t know what to tell you,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond. “Come here, participate, do the work and I promise you, you will know a lot more about the budget.”
Democrats in the State Senate have similar concerns.
“If we haven’t seen a copy of the budget then our people are not well represented,” said Sen. Julia Kirt, R-Oklahoma City. “Debate makes democracy better. We don’t get a chance to do that if we are not informed.”
Senate budget chair, Roger Thompson turning down our request for an interview but pointing out that Senate Democrats were coming to his office just after 11 a.m. Monday morning for a budget briefing.
Appropriations meetings for both the House and Senate were slated to kick off Monday afternoon, but were pushed back until after 7 p.m. at the Capitol.
Many post on social media talked today about school vouchers making their way back into the budget. However, multiple senators and representatives we talked to say that is “highly unlikely.”