OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers will have less than two weeks before they head back to the Capitol for a special session.
Last month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote.
The fee was expected to generate $215 million for several state agencies. However, officials say the loss of matching federal funds brings the total loss to nearly $500 million.
On Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order calling for a special session to address the budget shortfall, develop long-term solutions to government inefficiencies and fund a teacher pay raise.
“Urgent action is needed,” said Fallin. “Lawmakers need to come together quickly to fill this fiscal year’s budget hole so our citizens can be assured they will receive necessary core services. I also am asking them to develop solutions to address structural deficits in our budget. For decades, we have attempted to balance our budget for too long with the use of one-time resources. We must develop a budget based on stability, not volatility.”
Fallin recommended lawmakers address the immediate budget shortfall while coming up with long-term solutions to the ongoing budget crisis.
Also, she said lawmakers need to find ways for the government to be more efficient.
Fallin also said legislators should address a pay increase for teachers and clarify exemptions to the new sales tax on vehicles.
“I have been talking with legislative leaders from both parties and I will continue to work with them until an agreement is reached,” Fallin said. “I wish we had an easy button to push but that is not reality. Our challenges in front of us are difficult and it will take great resolve and statesmanship for us to be successful.”
The special session will convene on Monday, Sept. 25.
“I encourage lawmakers to see this special session as an opportunity to change the fiscal course we are headed,” said Fallin. “I hope they seize the moment to pass legislation that makes more recurring revenue available, reduces our reliance on one-time funds, and puts our state on the path to success.”