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Fallin Expects $600M Budget Hole, Says There’s No Timeline To Replace Pruitt

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address Feb. 1, 2016.
Joe Wertz
StateImpact Oklahoma
Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address Feb. 1, 2016.

Gov. Mary Fallin says early projections show Oklahoma will have a nearly $600 million hole in next year's state budget. That’s nearly 10 percent of the current year's spending.

"It's going to be a challenging year,” Fallin said during a Wednesday news conference. “We've got certainly need within the Department of Corrections, which you've seen recently. We've got needs with Highway Patrol, in Mental Health Services. There's a lot of competing needs out there, for money.”

The State Board of Equalization will meet next week to certify available revenues. The governor says that figure includes about $245 million in one-time sources of money that were spent on this year's budget.

Fallin says she's optimistic an increase in the price of oil and natural gas could reduce the shortfall before the final revenue estimate is certified in February. Fallin also called on law makers to look at additional sources of revenue.

“One of the things I talked about last year was looking at the $8 billion that is taken out of our revenue and budget for 150 different sales tax exemptions. We give sales tax exemptions on things like tattoos,” Fallin said.

Despite the shortfall, Fallin says a pay raise for Oklahoma teachers will be a priority next year.

The governor also said there's no timetable to appoint a successor to attorney general Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt has been tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which could take months.

Fallin told reporters she's not in any hurry to make a decision, because there currently isn't a vacancy in the attorney general’s office.

"I will tell you I'm getting a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages in between,” Fallin said. “There's a lot of interest in the attorney general's position, and we have a lot of great people who are willing to step up and serve."

Fallin didn't indicate who any of those people might be. Under state law, Fallin cannot appoint a current state Senator or Representative to the post.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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