State Budget Shortfall Worse Than Thought;
County, State Road/Bridge Funds at Risk

Lockhart, JamesOKLAHOMA CITY – To put it bluntly, I’m worried. We still haven’t tackled too many world-changing type issues this session. No major changes when it comes to reducing the number of tests our kids take at school, nothing major in any health care issues, and not much doing in reforming any tax-related issues, especially fines and fees that disproportionally hurt small businesses.

The main reason for the stalemate is the huge budget deficit we are facing. Our state Constitution requires the budget to be balanced. Basically, with a shortfall of $611 million, the bills we pass this year need to have little or no cost on state revenues. We can’t write hot checks like the federal government, then go print up more money when it’s time to pay up; the state Legislature has to actually watch how much it spends.

I visited with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee Thursday morning and I asked him, “Earl, can you give me a bit of good news to tell the folks back home regarding the budget?”

His response was a light at the end of a tunnel – but it was a train, not the good kind of light I was hoping for. He said people are saying it’s a $611 million deficit, but they are failing to account for insurance for teachers, the Pinnacle Plan (the ongoing effort by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to reform the state’s child welfare operations), and the raises for state employees that was passed last year.

Representative Sears said all totaled, we are looking at being around $670 million short. I asked him if he thought the CIRB (County Improvements to Roads and Bridges) fund would be cut and he said “yes”. He also said funding for state highways would be cut, too.

He did ask me to report that he was trying to craft a budget that would do as little harm as possible. He said the Senate has its version of a budget, and the governor has hers. The final budget must be agreed upon by the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Governor, so it’s never a sure thing until it’s signed into law.

This week I had Isaac Walden as a legislative page. I have known Isaac for some time; he is active in FFA and FCCLA. The pages hold a mock Legislature and elect officers; Isaac was elected Lieutenant Governor of Pageville. Isaac did a wonderful job for us at the Capitol.

It is an honor to serve as your state Representative. If I can ever be of assistance, please feel free to contact me at the office at (405) 557.7413; at home, (918) 653.7571; or by email at [email protected]; or you can find me on Facebook.

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