Fallin Delivers Annual Address To Joint Session Of Oklahoma Legislature
Gov. Mary Fallin is calling on state lawmakers to revamp the state's budgeting process.
In her State of the State address Monday, Fallin said the primary source of discretionary spending by the Legislature — the general revenue fund — is growing smaller. It is shrinking, both in dollars and as a percentage of overall collections, because of the increasing cost of mandatory off-the-top apportionments.
Fallin says the state's budgeting system diverts billions of dollars away from the general revenue fund before the budgeting process begins to support government programs, pay for tax credits or to fill unused revolving funds maintained by some state agencies.
Fallin says she wants to work with lawmakers to take a fresh look at the budgeting process, and to rethink how taxpayer dollars are allocated.
Governor's Budget Proposes A 6.25 Percent Cut To Many Agencies
The governor's proposed budget for the upcoming year calls for 6.25 percent cuts to the operating budgets of many state agencies.
The governor's proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 was outlined Monday, the opening day of the 2015 Oklahoma Legislature, by Fallin's secretary of finance, Preston Doerflinger.
Doerflinger says Fallin's proposed budget calls for appropriations increases to five agencies that she considers priorities this year, including the departments of education, corrections and human services. The budgets of 10 other agencies, including the Department of Transportation, would maintain their current appropriation level while all others would receive budget cuts.
The Board of Equalization has estimated lawmakers will have about $300 million less to appropriate in the upcoming year than they did for the current budget.
Education, Prison Reform, And Healthcare Are Fallin's Priorities
Fallin said that she has three priorities in the 2015 legislative session. She wants to focus on education, prison reform and reform of sentencing for non-violent offenders, and healthcare in Oklahoma.
The governor said Oklahoma's workforce is not meeting the education levels needed to sustain job growth. She says in five years, studies predict only 23 percent of Oklahoma jobs will be available to those who have a high school degree or less. Today, Fallin says, 46 percent of the working population fits that description.
Fallin says lawmakers should help strengthen partnerships between businesses and local schools where students can dual track their education and work skills.
Oklahoma must ramp up its "smart on crime" policies, including the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, to offer alternatives to low-risk, non-violent offenders such as drug courts, veteran's courts and mental health courts.
It costs the state around $19,000 a year to house an inmate, but $5,000 a year to send an addict through drug court and on to treatment.
Fallin said Oklahoma ranks at the top of the nation for prescription drug abuse, fourth in the nation in unintentional drug poisoning deaths, seventh-worst for obesity and the sixth-worst for smoking rates.
The governor says there are thousands of unnecessary deaths in the state each year and billions of public and private dollars spent to treat preventable illnesses.
She says every Oklahoman can better take personal responsibility for their health. But lawmakers can pass a prescription drug monitoring bill that cracks down on the practice of "doctor shopping" and ensures that narcotics are not being prescribed to addicts.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.