“We are setting Oklahoma up for failure,” Gov. Fallin has harsh words for lawmakers

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OKLAHOMA CITY –  After the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a measure that calls for budget cuts to several state agencies, Gov. Mary Fallin had some harsh words for legislators.

House Bill 1019 includes $60 million worth of cuts across various state agencies while also using millions in Rainy Day funds, carryover cash, and revolving money. It also includes a recently passed measure to raise the gross production tax (‘GPT’) on legacy wells.

The Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services are facing cuts between $4 million and $15 million.

The bill also includes cuts to various agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Ethics Commission, House of Representatives and the Senate. All of these agencies face cuts between 2.5% and 2.7% under this proposal.

The Department of Education, Election Board, and the Department of Corrections would be among those facing no cuts.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House passed HB 1019 by a vote of 56 to 38. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Lawmakers at the Capitol during special session.

While many organizations spoke out against the measure, Gov. Mary Fallin had harsh words for lawmakers at the Capitol.

“I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to come to an agreement on a way to fix our structural issues within our state budget. Let me be clear, these same agencies that provide for the health and safety of our communities, the elderly, poor, mentally ill, and children will continue to be at great risk. The Legislature is leaving close to a $550 million budget gap for next session, which starts in three months, mainly by using one-time gimmicks.

“Next year is an election year, and if we don’t have the courage or will to put our house in order after one full legislative session and nearly eight weeks of special session, next year will be devastating. Just this week, I have been told we are losing out on new job and investment opportunities. The Department of Commerce has been notified ‘we’ve taken Oklahoma out of consideration’ because its budget is so unstable, it can’t keep teachers and underfunds vital services. We are setting Oklahoma up for failure that will take many years to undo the damage we have done to our state’s image.

“We are setting Oklahoma up for failure that will take many years to undo the damage we have done to our state’s image.”

“The special session is into its eighth week, and we have talked about different revenue proposals and ways to restructure our budget. Over my last three State of the State speeches, I have repeatedly urged the Legislature to stop kicking the can down the road and put our state on a budget path for success.

“As I told the speaker and pro tem as well as other leaders, my preference would be a revote on “Plan A+” that received 71 votes, just five votes short of passing. The leadership feels members won’t change their votes. Secondly, I asked last week and this past Monday for at least a stand-alone vote on the cigarette tax, which is the reason why we are having special session. The leadership and I have been told that the Democrats will not vote for the cigarette tax as a stand-alone vote. So it’s dead, too, yet the Senate still has a vote on the latest budget plan.

“This is not what I want, and I can tell you the majority of the Legislature doesn’t want it either. The House did get to 71 yes votes on a revenue-raising plan, which, when you include the Senate’s 37 yes votes on a similar measure, was more than a majority of the Legislature. However, getting past the hurdle of State Question 640, which was passed by voters in the early 1990s and requires three-fourths passage on revenue-raising measures, has been difficult.

“I have told our legislative leaders that I would veto any bill that makes severe cuts of $90 million or more to state agencies and spends the $83 million in cash reserves. When a budget bill comes to my desk, I will need to review any additions or changes to what has previously been discussed with our leaders.”

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