Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday May 12, 2011
Things move quickly at the state Capitol. Bills can come and go in the blink of an eye, and new language can pop up in bills with little notice. There are lots of moving parts that make up the engine of state government, and the budget is what makes everything go.
This week on Oklahoma Forum, we again welcomed members of the Oklahoma legislative leadership to discuss the status of budget negotiations and more as the legislature heads into the final month of this year's session. Our guests were Speaker of the House Kris Steele, House Minority Leader Scott Inman, Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice and Senate Assistant Floor Leader Clark Jolley.
The Democrats complained that as the minority party they have been left out of the process; the Republican leaders felt confident that they would be able to craft a balanced budget, even as the state faces a revenue shortfall of about $500 million. The negotiations seem to be nearing an end, with the status of agency and IT consolidation and bond issues being the biggest outstanding elements. Budget negotiators in the House and Senate are still working with the governor's office to reach a resolution.
It does appear that the cuts may be higher than Governor Fallin requested in her Executive Budget for the next fiscal year. In that plan, so-called "core" functions would receive a cut of about 3%, while most other agencies and departments would be cut about 5%. However, those percentages are contingent on the extent to which the House and Senate agree to reduce the budget hole through other means. It is beginning to look as if the 5% money that some hope will be used in the calculations will not be in play.
While the budget dominated the discussion, we also had time to talk about redistricting and the reprimand of Rep. Sally Kern for remarks she made that many African Americans and women found to be objectionable. And, whether the legislators will end their work before the legally-mandated deadline of May 27 (the last Friday in May), remained an open question.
This program is another example of how we bring open, transparent government to the people of Oklahoma. And, it also shows how leaders on both sides of the aisle, regardless of policy differences, have shown this year that they can disagree without being disagreeable. In the overheated political environment that is so prevalent across America today, that is quite remarkable indeed.
Until next time,
(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Rep. Kris Steele, Rep. Scott Inman, Sen. Clark Jolley, and Sen. Andrew Rice)
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