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AG Finds Oklahoma Legislature Mishandled More Funds

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Steve Wampler
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Flickr.com

The Legislature mishandled funds in two more cases during the 2014 legislative session, according to opinions released Tuesday. 

In separate opinions, Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the Legislature's appropriation of part of $11.0 million from the Workers' Compensation Fund for purposes other than the use or benefit of the Workers Compensation Commission was unconstitutional. The Attorney General's Office also found the transfer of $5 million from the Trauma Care Assistance Revolving Fund to be appropriated for other purposes also violated in the Constitution.

Both opinions point to Article 10, Section 19 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which says statutes levying taxes must state a purpose for the tax and all tax money collected may only be used for said purposes.

In June, the Attorney General's Office determined the Legislature erred when it included language in SB2127, the general appropriations bill, telling Board of Equalization to reduce the $57 million previously allocated to OHLAP by $7.9 million.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, requested the opinion concerning the Trauma Care Assistance Revolving Fund. That transfer also was part of SB2127. The $5 million was transferred from the trauma care fund to the Special Cash Fund.

The opinion concerning the Workers' Compensation Fund was requested by the Workers Compensation Commissioners. According to the opinion, the Board of Equalization certified in December that two assessments contained in the 2013 law that established the commission would generate $11.0 million of revenue. That money, according to the opinion, was to be used for the benefit of the commission.

"The Legislature appropriated a total of $5.5 million to the Workers' Compensation Commission and the Workers' Compensation Court of Existing Claims," the opinion notes. "All or some of the remainder of the $11 million was appropriated in Fiscal Year 2015 for purposes other than the use and benefit of the commission."

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