KGOU

Capitol Insider: 'Legislature Must Return In Special Session' Gov. Fallin Says

Aug 18, 2017

Gov. Mary Fallin and leaders in the state legislature do not appear to be on the same page with regards to a special legislative session.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a $1.50 per pack “smoking cessation fee” on cigarettes. Without the $215 million dollars generated by the fee, the state will not take in enough revenue for the current fiscal year.

Gov. Fallin hinted strongly this week that a special session will be necessary to bridge the budget gap.

eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley told KGOU that Gov. Fallin is still hopeful House and Senate legislative leaders can agree on a plan to fix the budget first before convening in order to make a special session short.

Ashley says both Republicans and Democrats have held individual meetings.

“What we’ve really yet to see from any of the major players is any sort of definitive plan. In fact, quite the opposite. What House Republicans seem to be saying, is that they may not need to come back at all, that perhaps they could wait until the start of the regular session in February to try to deal with the situation,” Ashley said.

Delaying any action to fix the budget, though, could have potentially detrimental consequences on several state agencies.

Ashley said, “The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services would run out of money later this calendar year, well before the middle of the fiscal year. The Department of Human Services would also run out of state appropriated funds around the end of the calendar year, halfway through the fiscal year. It could have very harmful effects because then they would have to find a way to work only with federal money or the grant money that they may have,” Ashley said.

Full Transcript

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, an insider's guide to Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director, Shawn Ashley. Shawn, governor Fallin still plans to call legislators back for a special session to fix the state budget for this fiscal year. Why has she not made the call yet?

Shawn Ashley: I think there are two reasons for that. First of all, there is still a case - or two cases actually- that the Supreme Court is considering related to the sales tax on motor vehicles, they have yet to decide that case and it would affect most state agencies, which received part of the more than $100 million that that sales tax is expected to generate. The other reason I think she's waiting is that she's hopeful that legislative leaders in the House and the Senate will come up with some sort of plan that they can agree to, so that a special session could be short, quick and to the point.

Pryor: What our legislators what our legislative leaders doing right now?

Ashley: House and Senate Republicans have each held individual meetings where they've been talking about the situation and House Democrats have met as well. I'm sure Senate Democrats have talked about the situation too. There are only seven of them so they don't need a big meeting room to come together at the Capitol in order to do that. But what we've really yet to see from any of the major players is any sort of a definitive plan. In fact quite the opposite. What House Republicans seem to be saying, is that they may not need to come back at all, that perhaps they could wait until the start of the regular session in February to try to deal with the situation.

Pryor: What would that do for those agencies?

Ashley: Well for the agencies effect affected by the tobacco cessation fee, Governor Fallin said that it could be quite devastating. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services would run out of money later this calendar year, well before the middle of the fiscal year. The Department of Human Services would also run out of state appropriated funds around the end of this calendar year halfway through the fiscal year. And the Oklahoma health care authority would run out of state appropriated funds before the end of the fiscal year at the end of June next year. So that could be devastating. It could have very harmful effects because then they would have to find a way to work only with federal money or the grant money that they may have.

Pryor: Shawn, under the Constitution the state can only appropriate 95 percent of any certified funds. Some lawmakers seem to think that the 5 percent general revenue fund cushion can be spent to fill the hole. Are they correct?

Ashley: No they're wrong. The five percent money is just a cushion that's there in the event revenues coming into the general revenue fund do not meet the levels that they're expected to. That's with the five percent money is, the fallback money. But as the governor pointed out the state constitution says that the only money that can be spent is that money which is appropriated. And the only money that can be moved around to be spent according to state law, she pointed out, is that money which has been appropriated. This money is separate. It's a cushion and there's nothing that can be done administratively to spin from the 5 percent money.

Pryor: When might the Oklahoma Supreme Court decide the constitutionality of the other revenue generating laws that are being challenged?

Ashley: Hopefully soon. Keep in mind that, not only do they have to reach a decision, they have to agree to how they're reaching that decision, to come up with an opinion that describes their thinking on this very important issue. Particularly if they move in a new direction, it's very important that that be expressed carefully. So not only do they have to reach a decision agree to how they reach that decision. They also have to agree on how to express that decision.

Pryor: The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board is exploring filing a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma for the way it has funded education. Speaker of the house Charles McCall had a rather pointed response to them.

Ashley: That's right. The House speaker said that if you look at Oklahoma City public schools, they may not be the ones you want filing a lawsuit because of the way they've managed their own money. And he also pointed out that in terms of school funding, they are better off than a lot of other school districts so they're not representative of what's going on in state funding. He also pointed out that common education funding has been held harmless in recent budget cuts and it was a rather fiery retort from him that for them to be coming after the state legislature was probably the wrong thing to do.

Pryor: Although by most accounts state funding for education relative to other States has declined dramatically over the last several years.

Ashley: That's correct. And in fact in the Oklahoma City public schools they've been forced to cut tens of millions of dollars from their spending but at the same time they have been able to manage their money and put in some cases some additional resources into schools and in some cases even into teachers’ pockets in terms of pay raises.

Pryor: Shawn, thank you.

Ashley: You're very welcome.

Pryor: That's capital insider e-mail your questions to news at KGO dot org or contact us on Twitter at KGO news. Until next time with Sean Ashli. I'm Dick Pryor.

Copyright © 2017 KGOU Radio. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to KGOU Radio. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only. Any other use requires KGOU's prior permission.

KGOU transcripts are created on a rush deadline by our staff, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of KGOU's programming is the audio.

Both Republicans and Democrats have held individual meetings, “But what we’ve really yet to see from any of the major players, the Republicans in particular, is any sort of definitive plan. In fact, quite the opposite. What House Republicans seem to be saying, is that they may not need to come back at all. That perhaps they could wait until the start of the regular session in February to try to deal with the situation.”

Delaying any action to fix the budget, though, could have potentially detrimental consequences on several State Agencies.

Ashley said, “The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services would run out of money after this calendar year, well before the middle of the fiscal year. The Department of Human Services would also run out of state appropriate funds around the end of the calendar year, halfway through the fiscal year. It could have very harmful effects because then they would have to find a way to work only with federal money or the grant money that they may have.”

 

 

 

 

Full Transcript

 

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, an insider's guide to Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director, Shawn Ashley. Shawn, governor Fallin still plans to call legislators back for a special session to fix the state budget for this fiscal year. Why has she not made the call yet?

 

Shawn Ashley: I think there are two reasons for that. First of all, there is still a case - or two cases actually- that the Supreme Court is considering related to the sales tax on motor vehicles, they have yet to decide that case and it would affect most state agencies, which received part of the more than $100 million that that sales tax is expected to generate. The other reason I think she's waiting is that she's hopeful that legislative leaders in the House and the Senate will come up with some sort of plan that they can agree to, so that a special session could be short, quick and to the point.

 

Pryor: What our legislators what our legislative leaders doing right now?

 

Ashley: House and Senate Republicans have each held individual meetings where they've been talking about the situation and House Democrats have met as well. I'm sure Senate Democrats have talked about the situation too. There are only seven of them so they don't need a big meeting room to come together at the Capitol in order to do that. But what we've really yet to see from any of the major players, the Republicans in particular, is any sort of a definitive plan. In fact quite the opposite. What House Republicans seem to be saying, is that they may not need to come back at all, that perhaps they could wait until the start of the regular session in February to try to deal with the situation.

 

Pryor: What would that do for those agencies?

 

Ashley: Well for the agencies effect affected by the tobacco cessation fee, Governor Fallin said that it could be quite devastating. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services would run out of money later this calendar year, well before the middle of the fiscal year. The Department of Human Services would also run out of state appropriated funds around the end of this calendar year halfway through the fiscal year. And the Oklahoma health care authority would run out of state appropriated funds before the end of the fiscal year at the end of June next year. It could have very harmful effects because then they would have to find a way to work only with federal money or the grant money that they may have.

 

Pryor: Shawn, under the Constitution the state can only appropriate 95 percent of any certified funds. Some lawmakers seem to think that the 5 percent general revenue fund cushion can be spent to fill the hole. Are they correct?

 

Ashley: No they're wrong. The five percent money is just a cushion that's there in the event revenues coming into the general revenue fund do not meet the levels that they're expected to. That's with the five percent money is, the fallback money. But as the governor pointed out the state constitution says that the only money that can be spent is that money which is appropriated. And the only money that can be moved around to be spent according to state law, she pointed out, is that money which has been appropriated. This money is separate. It's a cushion and there's nothing that can be done administratively to spin from the 5 percent money.

 

Pryor: When might the Oklahoma Supreme Court decide the constitutionality of the other revenue generating laws that are being challenged?

 

Ashley: Hopefully soon. Keep in mind that, not only do they have to reach a decision, they have to agree to how they're reaching that decision, to come up with an opinion that describes their thinking on this very important issue. Particularly if they move in a new direction, it's very important that that be expressed carefully. So not only do they have to reach a decision agree to how they reach that decision. They also have to agree on how to express that decision.

 

Pryor: The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board is exploring filing a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma for the way it has funded education. Speaker of the house Charles McCall had a rather pointed response to them.

 

Ashley: That's right. The House speaker said that if you look at Oklahoma City public schools, they may not be the ones you want filing a lawsuit because of the way they've managed their own money. And he also pointed out that in terms of school funding, they are better off than a lot of other school districts so they're not representative of what's going on in state funding. He also pointed out that common education funding has been held harmless in recent budget cuts and it was a rather fiery retort from him that for them to be coming after the state legislature was probably the wrong thing to do.

 

Pryor: Although by most accounts state funding for education relative to other States has declined dramatically over the last several years.

 

Ashley: That's correct. And in fact in the Oklahoma City public schools they've been forced to cut tens of millions of dollars from their spending but at the same time they have been able to manage their money and put in some cases some additional resources into schools and in some cases even into teachers’ pockets in terms of pay raises.

 

Pryor: Shawn, thank you.

 

Ashley: You're very welcome.

 

Pryor: That's capital insider e-mail your questions to news at KGO dot org or contact us on Twitter at KGO news. Until next time with Sean Ashli. I'm Dick Pryor.

 

Copyright © 2017 KGOU Radio. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to KGOU Radio. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only. Any other use requires KGOU's prior permission.

 

KGOU transcripts are created on a rush deadline by our staff, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of KGOU's programming is the audio.