Oklahoma House approves bill to impose across-the-board cuts to state agencies
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
The Oklahoma House has approved a bill to impose across-the-board cuts to all state agencies to close a hole in the state budget.
The House passed HB1022xx Feb. 19 by a vote of 67-24. The plan comes in wake of the failure of the latest budget plan, "Step Up Oklahoma". The plan will cut all state agencies by about two percent for the final four months of fiscal year 2018.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where the Senate Joint Committee of Appropriations and Budget has already approved it.
State Rep. Steve Kouplen, on behalf of Oklahoma House Democrats, called the budget cuts "unconscionable".
"Today, the House sent $44 million worth of cuts to be approved by the Senate. We firmly believe that there are still options on the table to bring in a small portion of revenue for this year and put the state on a better path forward beginning the next fiscal year," Kouplen said.
Kouplen says that the Democratic Caucus is ready to commit all 28 of their votes to a plan proposed by State Auditor Gary Jones. The plan combines cigarette and motor fuel taxes with an increase in the gross production tax.
"As we have mentioned in the past, it seems that the Republican Caucus is more worried about political cover while cutting agencies than actually finding a solution. Otherwise, we would be voting on revenue packages regularly until we find a combination that works," Kouplen said.
House Speaker Charles McCall said lawmakers are out of time to provide revenue and help state agencies avoid cuts for the fiscal year.
"Now House Democrats want us to stall yet again to discuss a plan that would have no effect on the FY-2018 budget. Our agencies need certainty and the ability to plan for the final three months of the fiscal year, and our citizens expect us to govern with the resources we have available. Even with these minimal cuts, our state agencies will still receive more than 99 percent of their original FY-2018 appropriation.” McCall said.