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Fallin Proposes Plan To Fill $1.3 Billion Shortfall

Gov. Mary Fallin addresses the media at the state capitol on April 13, 2016.
Jacob McCleland
Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin addresses the media at the state capitol on April 13, 2016.

Gov. Mary Fallin outlined a draft plan Wednesday to help plug the state’s projected $1.3 billion dollars budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year and avoid major cuts to education, health, mental health, corrections and other services.

Fallin would bond $450 million of transportation projects to free up that money for other purposes.  She also proposed nearly $238.9 million in new revenue through tax reform measures, such as eliminating certain sales tax exemptions and getting rid of the state’s personal income tax double deduction.

“It is unacceptable to have four-day week school days in education,” Fallin said. “We want to make sure that every child has the best education possible and it’s also very important that we have a highly skilled, educated workforce in our state to not only retain jobs but to attract jobs in our state.”

Fallin also wants to save $177 million in apportionment reform. Her plan calls for $113.4 million in apportionment equity and elimination of the Tourism and Historical Society apportionments for a saving of $22 million and $1.5 million respectively. She also caps gasoline, diesel, motor vehicle and cigarette tax apportionments at Fiscal Year 2013 levels.

“That’s the whole concept that I’m talking about is we’ve got to fix the structure of the budget so we don’t continually to have these budget shortfalls with the money that’s available for the legislature to appropriate,” Fallin said.

Under Fallin’s draft plan, several large agencies would be restored to their original Fiscal Year 2016 budgets in the next fiscal year. That list includes the Department of Education, Career Technology,  Health Care Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Health Department. The Department of Human Services would  also receive a $11.3 million appropriation for their Pinnacle Plan request. Most other agencies receive a 4.5 percent cut.

Fallin said she and legislators are in agreement on many funding issues, “but there are some issues we don’t have agreement on,” Fallin said.

“It’s a draft only,” Fallin said of her plan, which she presented to the House and the Senate on Tuesday. “It is truly a working list of ideas. It is not the budget. But when I put  my budget out in February of this year we had a $900 million shortfall. Now we have a $1.3 billion shortfall. I thought it was wise for us to continue to show paths forward for the state to be able to fund these core services without causing as much harm, or the least harm per se, to these important core services that we want to make sure that we provide for our citizens.”

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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