Friday, September 22, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement on the upcoming special session of the Oklahoma Legislature, which is scheduled to get underway Monday:
“This special session is an opportunity for lawmakers to solve lingering, critical structural problems in our state budget. I am hopeful lawmakers will consider thoughtful, realistic solutions in a timely manner. Many ideas have been fully vetted over the past couple of legislative sessions, so it really should be a matter of taking care of unfinished business.
“Certainly, the most pressing need is to address the immediate budget shortfall created by the loss of the $215 million cigarette fee revenue. The cigarette tax alone will not fill this year’s hole because it would be implemented much later in the fiscal year than originally proposed. We will need to identify other revenue sources to make up the difference. If we do not, additional cuts to core government services will occur.
“Additional cuts to agencies will further harm state services. I will veto a proposal that calls for cuts to state agencies. Also, sending the cigarette tax to a vote of the people is not an option. The earliest the issue could be decided by voters is June, the last month of the current fiscal year. It doesn’t fix the budget hole because it would not generate any revenue for this fiscal year.
“I hope lawmakers do provide a long-term solution to the state’s continuing budget shortfalls. It is apparent that rapid changes in our economy have created unsustainable and unpredictable revenue collection patterns. We need to seek long-term sustainability and stability as opposed to unpredictability and volatility. Our legislators must work to make more recurring revenue available, stop balancing our budget with one-time funds and come up with a teacher pay raise. Because of the use of one-time funds to balance this year’s budget, we are anticipating a $500 million shortfall next year. The limited focus and attention of a special session can allow us to address these long-term structural issues.
“My staff and I have been talking for many weeks with legislative leaders from both parties, and I will continue to work with them until an agreement is reached. Our challenges in front of us are difficult, but I am hopeful that, with great resolve and statesmanship, we will succeed.”