Senate passes budget deal, encourages House to follow suit

Eight weeks into the special session in Oklahoma City, the Senate may have finally found a budget they agree on. (KTUL)

Eight weeks into the special session in Oklahoma City the Senate may have finally found a budget they agree on.

This new plan doesn’t raise taxes, but it also doesn’t raise teacher pay. Governor Mary Fallin says this may just set the state up for another failure next year.

“It’s been disappointing,” the governor says. “It’s been a long, hard seven weeks.”

There may, finally, be an end in sight, though.

“I think it’s been frustrating to the whole state of Oklahoma, especially to the voters,” Fallin says. “I know the phone calls my office has been getting and legislators have been getting saying ‘Fix the issue, Fix the problem.’”

The fix dips into cash reserves, increases taxes on older “Legacy” oil wells and cuts 2.4 percent out of 49 of state agencies budgets, but it doesn’t include raises for teachers or state employees.

“I wish that we could go and do a second vote on the original bill for the cigarette tax,” Fallin says. “But in the end, they just tell me no.”

Governor Fallin says the supermajority required to pass the bill is one of the highest thresholds in the country.

“There’s not a 75 percent threshold in the U.S. Senate to get anything done,” she says. “If there was, of course, they don’t get anything done as it is, but if it was higher than that, it would be much harder to get anything accomplished.”

She says this bill is just a stop-gap, and we could be right back here sooner rather than later.

“But next year we still have a big hurdle to cross,” she says. “And I’ll tell them next year ‘I told you so, but this is a real deal.’ And we have to find a way to restructure our budget.”

Fallin wants to do it before it hurts the future of the Sooner State.

“If we don’t start taking care of our problems and taking care of our issues,” Fallin says. “It’s going to be hard to be able to attract businesses and explain why they should come to Oklahoma.”

Since this latest proposal isn’t a revenue producing bill, it only requires a simple majority vote rather than the 75 percent threshold required in a supermajority.

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