Capitol Insider: Whose List Is It Anyway? The Budget Battle
A report published online Thursday claims to outline details of a budget agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin and House Democrats.
Since the article, Fallin, Democrats Close in on Billion-Dollar Revenue Bargain, was posted, Fallin’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger, Democratic Leader Scott Inman (D- Del City) and Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David (R-Porter) have refuted the idea that any deal has been made. However, according to eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, Speaker of the House Charles McCall (R- Atoka) and House Majority Leader Mike Sanders (R- Kingfisher) continued to pitch the idea of a $1 billion proposal being advanced by Democrats, saying House Republicans would not support the deal.
David, the apparent source of the list, told Ashley, “It’s fake news.”
“The story appears to refer to a list she asked Senate staff to compile of suggestions made both inside and outside of the Capitol for addressing the need for additional revenue.”
David called it a “laundry list” of ideas proposed by many sources. She told Ashley:
"It's absolutely not an agreement. There are quite a few things on there the governor disagrees with. There are things on there Senate Republicans disagree with. There a quite a few of them that House Republicans disagree with. It's not a plan."
David told Ashley it appears someone was trying to derail the negotiations, calling the attempt “really disheartening”
What's absurd is your Leader not calling the speaker but instead going to a press conf to lie about a blog story. Let's all get back to work— Jon Echols (@jonechols) August 24, 2017
Dick Pryor: This is Capital Insider, an insider's guide to Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, a recent story appeared that suggested there was a deal on the budget with a billion dollars in taxes to generate additional revenue but that's been shot down by people on all sides.
Shawn Ashley: Very quickly Thursday a number of officials began to dispute the idea that a deal had been reached between Governor Mary Fallin and House Democrats in particular to put forth a $1 billion tax increase series of proposals in a special session perhaps later this year. One of the first to speak out against it was Governor Fallin's Secretary of Finance and her chief budget adviser Preston Doerflinger who said that there was no deal and no agreement had been reached not only between the governor and Democrats but between the governor and anyone for that matter. Later in the day House Democratic leader Scott Inman also refuted the idea that an agreement had been reached and he suggested that it was House Republicans who have yet to put forward any revenue raising ideas who were responsible for leaking what they said was a plan to this reporter. Later in the day we also heard from a Senate appropriations chairwoman Kim David who claimed responsibility for the alleged list. What she said was that this list was a number of ideas that have been suggested some by House Democrats some by the governor some by groups outside of the capital of revenue raising ideas that she asked Senate staff to put together so that there could be a laundry list for people to talk about in these budget negotiations. So she said it was simply a laundry list that they were looking at but time and time again everyone stressed for the most part that there was no deal except House Republicans late in the day we heard from House Speaker Charles McCall and House Majority Leader Mike Sanders who continued to pitch the idea that there was a $1 billion proposal being advanced by House Democrats and that they would not support it.
Pryor: Meanwhile the wait continues for Supreme Court decisions on three revenue generating laws that are being challenged for their constitutionality.
Ashley: Every day we keep expecting that we will see those decisions. But when you think about it this is a very complex situation. First of all, you have to get agreement among the majority of the Supreme Court justices on whether the sales tax on motor vehicles is in fact constitutional or unconstitutional specifically the way in which it was passed. And then you have to get agreement on how to communicate that idea in the opinion which they will issue. And there could be multiple opinions you could have a majority and a minority or a couple of minorities in this case. I think one thing it does reveal to us is whatever the decision is it's not a unanimous decision like the decision on the tobacco cessation fee.
Pryor: Well and on the tobacco tax the constitutionality of that was challenged it was found to be unconstitutional. And that has thrown the entire budget into disarray. We've seen the effects of that just in the last few days with the Oklahoma health care authority voting to cut back on the number of hours per clients that mental health care providers can provide to their clients.
Ashley: That's correct. This is something that the commissioner of mental health and substance abuse services Terry White has warned about for a number of years as their budget began to decline that they would be able to provide less case management services to some of their clients who receive Medicaid in particular. And what we saw this week was that a decision was made to reduce the number of those hours quite significantly but it saves both the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority millions of dollars that they simply don't have.
Pryor: Those case managers were spending up to six hours and 15 minutes per client per month and the cutback is now down to four hours per year.
Ashley: Exactly. It's a major reduction in services.
Pryor: We have also seen a record number of emergency teacher certifications.
Ashley: For the third month in a row the State Board of Education approved a large number of emergency certifications, in excess of 400 at its meeting on Thursday. That brings the total for the year up to around 4400 individuals. And at the same time various school districts are reporting that there are another 500 plus positions that they simply are unable to fill.
Pryor: eCapital News Director Shawn Ashley, Thank you.
Ashley: You're very welcome.
Pryor: Until next time, I'm Dick Pryor.
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