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Fallin To Call Lawmakers Back To Statehouse For Second Special Session

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin appears following a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.
Sue Ogracki
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin appears following a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.

Oklahoma legislators won’t have time to go last-minute Christmas shopping--Gov. Mary Fallin will call legislators back to the state capitol for a second special session that will begin on Dec.18.

“We know we still have a budget hole for this fiscal year of about $111 million from the loss of cigarette fee revenue that will result in cuts that the Health Care Authority will need to make starting January 1 and the Department of Human Services by February 1 if we don’t identify more funding,” Fallin said in a statement.

She will issue an executive order and an official call for the special session at a later date.

According to Fallin’s statement, budget estimates are being prepared for revenue proposals. Additionally, the state Board of Equalization will meet on Dec. 20 to provide a preliminary estimate for the following year’s available funds for appropriation. Fallin says that even if the Board of Equalization finds revenue growth in fiscal year 2019, there will still be a need for additional revenue due the use of one-time funding in the current budget, the loss of money from the unconstitutional cigarette fee, and to give teachers and state employees a raise.

“I expect any additional growth in revenue coming to the state treasury will not be enough to put us on the stable foundation we want to see and give teachers a raise. In recent years, we have patched over our problems by using one-time money that, in effect, borrows from Peter to pay Paul,” Fallin said.

Fallin vetoed most of a “cash-and-cuts” budget plan at the end of the first special session because it contained cuts to agencies and did not address a teacher pay raise. She kept portions of the budget that provides one-time money to health agencies that would have received deep mid-fiscal year cuts.

In a statement, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, criticized Fallin’s line-item veto of the first special session’s budget.

“Her veto has put those healthcare programs that Oklahomans rely on in a very precarious position and created uncertainty for healthcare providers and citizens. Had she signed the bill, as she promised the House and Senate she would do, these additional revenue issues could have been addressed during the upcoming regular session,” McCall wrote. “Once again, the governor has called us back into special session without a plan in place, which means more taxpayer dollars will be wasted. This additional special session could have been avoided if the governor had kept her word.”

Fallin called the first special session after the state supreme court struck does a $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes that would have generated $215 million for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority.

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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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