As word spread about FBI involvement in the Oklahoma State Department of Health investigation this morning, lawmakers moved two measures forward to appropriate state revenues for two other agencies.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority — the state’s Medicaid agency — would receive $17.7 million in SB 1XX, and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services would receive $26.5 million in SB 2XX. Both bills passed the Senate and House joint budget committees unanimously before noon Tuesday.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s original call for the state’s second special session of the year only specified funding for the OHCA, but Monday night she amended her executive order to include DHS funding and specify dollar amounts.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kim David (R-Porter) said during committee that the money was coming from taxes raised on “legacy wells” in special session. The gross production tax on a specific group of oil and gas wells was raised from 4 percent to 7 percent, although the wells would have reached 7 percent in less than two years anyway.
“When the governor vetoed the [general appropriations] bill, that money was not appropriated,” David said. “So it was in [general revenue fund], but it was not appropriated.”
David noted that the bills — which could reach chamber floors this week — are necessary to fill budget holes at OHCA and DHS. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services also lost funding when the Legislature’s cigarette fee was ruled unconstitutional.
“The money that we’re giving them today (will get) all three of those agencies through April,” David said. “So there’s still a shortfall there that we will need to address at another time.”
Legislative leaders and Fallin are continuing to discuss a broader budget fix that could be addressed when the 2018 regular session begins in February.
‘We will get to the bottom of what happened’
While the legislative committees were meeting, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that federal agencies would be joining his ongoing investigation into the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Hunter’s entire press release:
Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced that the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will partner with his office to investigate issues relating to the use of federal funds at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
Attorney General Hunter said attorneys and investigators with his office will work with federal authorities and the state auditor’s office to scrutinize movement and management of both state and federal monies at the OSDH.
“I appreciate the collaboration of the FBI and HHS in insuring that we can conduct a thorough and exacting review of the situation at OSDH,” Attorney General Hunter said. “We will get to the bottom of what happened there.”