Fallin Vetoes Most Of Budget Bill, Promises New Special Session
Citing a failure to address several of her requests when she called a special session of the state legislature and the use of one-time funds, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the vast majority of a budget bill Friday evening.
Fallin vetoed 165 of the budget bill’s 170 sections. She only kept provisions that temporarily provide funding for public health and human services until the legislature reconvenes for another special session.
“House Bill 1019X does not provide a long-term solution to the re-occurring budget deficits, and within three months we will come back facing an estimated $600 million shortfall,” Fallin said in a press release.
The legislature passed a “cash and cuts” budget bill this week, which cut funding to dozens of state agencies and took money from agency revolving funds, or savings accounts. Lawmakers attempted to generate additional revenue earlier this month with a tax package that included an increase to tobacco, beer and fuel taxes, as well as a higher tax rate on some oil and gas production. That bipartisan measure passed the Senate but received 71 votes in the House, just 5 votes shy of the required three-fourths majority for revenue-raising bills. The bill would have also given a pay raise to teachers.
Fallin said the legislature did not address several items that she requested when she called for a special session, including a long-term solution to the state’s continuing budget shortfalls, more consolidation and efficiencies in state government, clarifying some exemptions to the new 1.25 percent vehicle sales tax, and a pay raise for teachers.
Fallin retained portions of the bill which provide $30 million to the Oklahoma State Department of Health to help that agency make payroll. The funding for OSDH comes after the agency’s commissioner and several key deputies resigned amid allegations of financial mismanagement.
Fallin also preserved short term funding for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
HB 1019X would have used $60 million from agency revolving funds and money from the state’s dwindling Rainy Day Fund. Fallin’s veto negates the use of revolving funds, and decreases the amount taken from the Rainy Day Fund. In a statement, Fallin said using that money would put the state “perilously close” to depleting all of Oklahoma’s one-time money.
“Some legislative leaders have stated that revenue measures will be taken up in February when lawmakers return in regular session. But I am very skeptical because next year is an election year and the pressure not to do anything will be greater,” Fallin said.
In a written statement, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said Fallin went back on her promise to the legislature by partially vetoing the HB 1019X. He said her line-item veto will create uncertainty for healthcare, investment and job creation.
“This veto action interjects more chaos and drama into the lives of Oklahomans at a time when they want stability,” McCall said. “The governor could have simply kept her word and stabilized the current situation for Oklahoma by signing the bill that she promised to sign, and then she could have called the Legislature back for her second special session. Instead, the governor has chosen to make the pursuit of her own priorities superior to the those of the people of Oklahoma."
Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus, released a statement saying he was surprised by Fallin’s veto. Schulz said Fallin’s office was involved in budget negotiations, and she did not indicate the final bill was “insufficient” or in danger of being vetoed.
“The revised budget agreement was not the Senate’s first choice to resolve the budget crisis but it was the only option after the House showed it was not able to meet the constitutional standards of raising revenue. Bringing the Legislature back into special session at this point seems like a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. The governor’s veto doesn’t help Oklahoma thrive, it only serves to throw our budget further into chaos,” Schulz said.
Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Aurora Lora thanked Fallin in a statement for vetoing the budget bill.
“After years of budget shortfalls, our legislators who have thus far been unwilling to join a compromise must stop passing the buck and balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. Our teachers and school children cannot thrive in constant fear of budget cuts and scarcity. We must have a sustainable path forward to build Oklahoma’s future,” Lora said.
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