Friday, the Oklahoma Legislature adjourned sine die (a Latin phrase indicating no official resumption has been set). Tense budget negotiations and late-night committee meetings brought the entire final week to a fevered pitch, as lawmakers, lobbyists and concerned citizens crowded the Capitol in the hopes of swaying the state’s financial future in their favor.
The following roundup of budget reactions and related comments to Friday’s sine die is by no means comprehensive. Rather, it seeks to illustrate a few contrasting perspectives various stakeholders have with regard to the final passage of fiscal year 2018’s budget bill, SB 860 (embedded at the bottom of this post).
(It should be noted, however, all of the following reactions, whether positive or negative, remain technically preliminary: Gov. Mary Fallin still has 15 days to either sign the bill or veto it. The latter decision would trigger a special session, in which lawmakers would reconvene for another crack at passing a budget. Fallin’s chief of staff told NonDoc she had committed to signing it, however. Still, some of the bill’s provisions will be challenged before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.)
From the #okleg
Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus):
… The budget process was difficult this year. The Oklahoma Senate showed its willingness to compromise — passing a revenue bill that would have meant $514 million in new, recurring revenue for the state. But without compromise from others in budget negotiations, we couldn’t reach a deal and moved [sic] forward.
… Like most budgets passed by the Legislature, the FY’18 budget is not a perfect bill but it is an incredible accomplishment considering the Legislature had to deal with a budget hole of $1 billion and some refused to compromise. …
House Democratic communications staffer Mike Ray, who announced his retirement Friday:
… Partisan politics has poisoned the House. The Oklahoma Capitol has become “Dysfunction Junction”.
Gov. Mary Fallin, in a statement issued Wednesday:
… Let there be no mistake, there is still work to do. When legislators return next year, they will already face a $400 million hole caused by one-time funds and $100 million of obligations coming due over the next 12 months that will need to be paid. Hopefully, in the months that follow they will begin putting together a real plan to address the budget to fill that hole when they return in February of 2018.
From oil & gas and think tanks
Chad Warmington, president, Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association:
… a small group of Legislators blocked a compromise on reasonable funding solutions to help the state address its budget shortfall this year without significantly affecting economic growth and job creation. Due to this impasse, the Legislature passed a risky solution to address state funding by increasing taxes by roughly 300 percent on thousands of currently producing wells. It will serve as a determent in the future for any growing industry who sees that Oklahoma will change the game on its promises once the investment is made. …
[excerpted from an emailed press release]
Gene Perry, policy director, Oklahoma Policy Institute
This failure is especially disappointing when we consider the promises made earlier in the year. Throughout legislative session, lawmakers repeated again and again that they would find funding to provide a teacher raise. Governor Fallin, legislative leaders, and experts in the community and law enforcement came together to develop a strong, well-thought-out agenda for criminal justice reform. Hundreds of advocates and lawmakers came to the table with practical revenue solutions to fund essential services and fix Oklahoma’s long-term budget outlook.
Jonathan Small, president, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs:
… Using one-time revenues during recessionary periods is never ideal, but it is preferable to permanent tax increases that cement unreformed spending. Given that total state spending is at an all-time high, many opportunities for additional spending reforms still exist. …
Shawn Hime, executive director, Oklahoma State School Boards Association:
… Over-the top partisan bickering blocked reasonable compromise. During the four months the Legislature was in session, schools sustained $93.3 million in state funding reductions. Where was the outrage and urgency? …
… It’s unconscionable that surrounding states reached our current level of per-student funding more than a decade ago and yet we made no dent in this education investment gap. Our children deserve better. …
Ginger Tinney, executive director, Professional Oklahoma Educators:
We are thankful to get the $18 million restored to the education funding. We wish we had gotten a teacher pay raise but we’re certainly grateful for giving the most back to education.
[in an official statement]
Amber England, executive director, Stand for Children Oklahoma:
… Instead of using this session as an opportunity to fix the structural budget problems, lawmakers passed a budget built using tricks and gimmicks, with zero transparency in the eleventh hour, full of constitutionally questionable revenue that’s balanced on the backs of working families all to protect Big Oil from paying their fair share.
Governor Fallin should veto this terrible budget and ask lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and put together a better budget that addresses the structural problems of the process, is built with the full transparency Oklahomans expect, invests in our schools, and gives our teachers a fully-funded pay raise. …
Don’t be fooled, a “flat budget” for education is still a cut. Oklahomans deserve a better budget.