special session
The 56th Oklahoma Legislature will convene for a special session on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (William W. Savage III)

Gov. Mary Fallin officially called for a special session of the 56th Legislature to begin Monday, Sept. 25, but her directive to lawmakers was broader than it could have been.

Fallin gave lawmakers direction to address five topics:

  • Address the immediate budget shortfall created by the loss of the $215 million cigarette fee revenue.
  • Have the option to address a long-term solution to continuing budget shortfalls.
  • Address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government.
  • Clarify intended exemptions to the new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles.
  • Address a needed pay increase for K-12 public school teachers.

Education advocacy groups had been urging Fallin to include the topic of teacher pay in the special session call, which the governor announced she planned on making one week earlier.

“Urgent action is needed,” said Fallin. “Lawmakers need to come together quickly to fill this fiscal year’s budget hole so our citizens can be assured they will receive necessary core services. I also am asking them to develop solutions to address structural deficits in our budget. For decades, we have attempted to balance our budget for too long with the use of one-time resources. We must develop a budget based on stability, not volatility.”

The September date of the special session — referred to constitutionally as an “extraordinary session” — led state leaders to cancel an annual diplomatic excursion to Taiwan.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus) released the following statement on Fallin’s special session call:

The Oklahoma Senate is up to the challenge and is ready to get to work. Our leadership already has been working through a variety of scenarios in preparation for the special session. There is no time to waste on ideas that haven’t been completely vetted. Let’s focus on ideas we’ve vetted – like a cigarette tax increase – that will help us address the immediate shortfall and provide recurring revenue going forward. As far as long-term budget solutions, the Senate already has shown its commitment to solving this problem by passing a plan during the regular session to provide new, recurring revenue. I believe the Senate could again pass such a plan if given the chance during a special session.