Senate GOP leader releases Oklahoma budget plan

The Oklahoma state Senate opened a special session today. Twitter photo.

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz on Monday released the Senate Republicans' plan to address the $215 million hole in the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget.

“This plan not only addresses the immediate need of $215 million for critical health care agencies that was struck down in court, but it also provides recurring  revenue streams to help us address the long-term stability of the budget and prevent further cuts to core government services,” said Schulz, R-Altus.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin speaks at a press conference with House Speaker Charles McCall (left) and Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz. Sue Ogrocki, AP.

“Oklahoma Senate Republicans have proven our willingness to address the state's long-term budget problems by passing a similar revenue package during the regular session. The elements of this plan for special session were fully vetted by the Senate during the regular session, and all received the necessary votes to pass constitutional muster. I’m confident Senate Republicans, if given the chance, again will put Oklahoma’s interests first and will be able to pass this responsible revenue plan that ensures education, public safety, transportation and other core services avoid further cuts.”

The Senate plan is as follows:

  • $1.50 per-pack increase in the cigarette tax, which generates $128.9 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and leaves $122.4 million for FY’18 appropriation;
  • a six-cent increase in the motor fuels tax, which generates $71 million in FY’18 and leaves $67.45 million for FY’18 appropriation; and
  • the elimination of the wind manufacturer sales tax exemption, which generates $10.97 million in FY’18 and leaves $9.87 million for FY’18 appropriation.
  • Because FY’18 collections are for less than a full fiscal year, the Senate plan also calls for a drawdown of $15.2 million from the Rainy Day Fund to entirely plug the hole in the FY’18 budget.

The governor’s call for special session included other issues like a teacher pay raise and finding more efficiency in government spending. Schulz said while the immediate need is addressing the FY’18 budget hole, Senate Republicans were open to considering those issues during the special session.

“Senate Republicans have said all along we must first address the short-term budget issues before acting on a teacher pay raise plan. Once we take care of the budget, Senate Republicans would consider a teacher pay plan that includes a permanent funding source,” Schulz said. “Additionally, Senate Republicans will keep working on making government more efficient and effective. We’ll keep pouring over agency spending and look at options like consolidation to improve the quality and delivery of services. There’s no doubt agencies can be more efficient in spending taxpayer dollars, and Senate Republicans will keep working on behalf of Oklahomans to make sure that happens.”

The Gayly – September 25, 2017 @ 4:15 p.m. CDT.