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2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

 

Gov. Mary Fallin announced this week that Oklahoma will face a revenue failure during the current fiscal year. At the same time, Republican lawmakers are backing away from one of Fallin’s proposals to bring more revenue into the state - a $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes.

The state will not bring in as much individual income, corporate income and sales tax collections this fiscal year as the state equalization board had budgeted for.

 

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Gov.  Mary Fallin at the Board of Equalization meeting on Feb. 21, 2017.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which will result in mid-year appropriations cuts to state agencies.

State agencies will receive across board cuts of 0.7 percent between March and June of this year. In total, agencies will be cut by $34.6 million.

Preston Doerflinger, the Director and Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, said the situation is dire and more revenue is needed.

 

The Oklahoma legislature could make big changes to the state sales taxes this session in an attempt to balance an estimated $870 million budget shortfall and provide a pay raise to teachers.

In her state of the state speech on Monday, Governor Mary Fallin proposed a pair of tax cuts, coupled with an expansion of the state’s sales tax system that would raise Oklahoma’s tax revenue by $1.1 billion.

Gov. Mary Fallin during her 2015 State of the State address Feb. 2, 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

 

As Governor Mary Fallin prepares for her State of the State address on Monday, February 6th, the Oklahoma legislature looks at changes involving taxes, criminal justice and disciplining some of their own.

At the Associated Press Legislative Forum on Thursday, Gov. Fallin said she wants to see, “a major overhaul of our tax system.”

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

The Oklahoma legislature will consider bills covering a wide range of topics in its upcoming session.

eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU’s Dick Pryor that lawmakers will tackle issues including handguns, abortion and how to fix the state’s estimated $900 million budget shortfall.

“Really every aspect of state law, state government is touched by the bills that were filed this year,” said Shawn Ashley.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Among the deluge of bills filed by state legislators in advance of the upcoming session are more than two dozen proposals to boost teacher pay.

Teachers, disappointed by the defeat of State Question 779, which would have generated about $550 million a year for education through a 1 percent sales tax, say they’re counting on legislators to do more than just talk.

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

Oklahoma’s legislative session begins in a couple of weeks. Lawmakers will have to grapple with an estimated $900 million budget shortfall, low levels of education funding, and a crowded prison system, among other problems.

KGOU’s Dick Pryor spoke with eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley about the upcoming session.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On filling a $900 million budget hole:

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Perhaps concerned about possible cuts in state programs and business incentives, lobbyists again have spent more on gifts for legislators and state officials in the months heading into the legislative session.

Lawmakers, elected officials and other state employees received about $60,350 in gifts from special-interest groups during the last six months of 2016, according to recently filed lobbying reports.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Lawmakers will take another stab at increasing teacher salaries, will attempt to stymie four-day school weeks and try to eliminate the end-of-year exam in U.S. history.

With the filing deadline on Jan. 19, bills have been streaming in, including many related to common education. Additional bills could surface later because of exceptions to the deadline and shell bills whose language is often replaced mid-session.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. The House has voted to seat Kirby, who rescinded a letter of resignation he submitted after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday to seat a lawmaker who walked back his resignation after being named in a sexual harassment complaint.

State Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, spoke publicly for the first time about the situation, and said he had done nothing wrong.

“There was an investigation into the allegations and it was determined there was no sexual harassment,” Kirby said.

The complaint by a legislative assistant resulted in a nearly $45,000 settlement on Nov. 22.

A drilling rig in northwestern Oklahoma's Mississippi Lime oil and gas play.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma legislators are under pressure to fund teacher raises and pay for health insurance coverage, workers comp, criminal justice initiatives and state prisons from a pool of money that could be $600 million short of what’s needed.

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Oklahoma's top budget official says he's not worrying about a revenue failure… yet.

This time last year, lawmakers were wringing their hands over sales tax figures that painted a dim view of state revenue. That’s when revenue was about 3 percent below the estimate used to build their budget.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif administers the oath of offices to all 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives at the state Capitol Wednesday.
Provided / Oklahoma House of Representatives

Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif administered the oath of office to all 101 newly elected House members during a ceremony at the state Capitol Wednesday morning.

The state's lower chamber includes 32 new state Representatives, including seven new Democrats. The new members of the minority caucus include a former assistant to the mayor of Tulsa and a former schoolteacher.

State Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said his biggest priority is education, but he’s also concerned about economic development and state tax policy.

Oklahoma state Capitol
LLudo / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Oklahoma's House Republicans picked their leadership for the next legislative session Tuesday, and formally elected state Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, as the next House Speaker.

At the end of the 2016 session in May the caucus elected McCall as Speaker-designate, but yesterday allowed the 25 new GOP House members to weigh in on the leadership.

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