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Legislature Steps Up To Deal With Budget Shortfall

State agencies are being asked to return to the Capitol to have an in-depth discussion about their budgets, the leaders of the House and the Senate said Thursday. The meetings to discuss budgets are a result of the $611 million dollar shortfall authorized by the State Equalization Board last Tuesday.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said House Appropriations and Budget subcommittees would be conducting in-depth, in session hearings for the first time he could remember.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said Senate Appropriations subcommittees would be doing the same thing.

“(House Appropriations and Budget Committee) Chairman (Earl) Sears, at my request, has directed his subcommittee chairmen to start calling in all the agencies to start reviewing their budgets from top to bottom,” Hickman explained.

“They do their pre-session budget hearings, but we really want to go back in now and look at how they would manage different cuts, probably anywhere from 3 percent to 9 percent, just different scenarios where they think they might be able to make reductions."

Governor Fallin has asked all agencies to be prepared for budget cuts.

The chief legislators say that the planned tax cut for 2016 will not be rescinded, but say that the tax cut is not the problem. They say the dedicated funds, called apportionment, steal funds that the legislature can control.

Legislative leaders indicate the items like travel and promotional items will be cut in agency budgets, rather than cuts to actual services that rile the electorate. They say they will also look at tapping the Rainy Day Fund and various revolving funds.

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