Governor Mary Fallin Calls Special Session to Deal with Budget Shortfall, Government Inefficiencies and Teacher Pay Increases
OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Mary Fallin today issued an executive order calling for a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature for lawmakers to address the shortfall in the current fiscal year budget as well as develop long-term solutions to government inefficiencies and fund a pay increase for public school teachers.
The governor called for the first extraordinary session of the 56th Legislature to convene Monday, Sept. 25.
Fallin recommended lawmakers:
- 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.
“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 state’s 2018 fiscal year budget, which took effect July 1, has a shortfall of $215 million as a result of last month’s Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling, which struck down a proposed smoking cessation fee that was estimated to raise that amount. The $215 million represents just state funds. With the loss of matching federal funds, state agencies estimate the total is nearly $500 million.
“In the call, I have also given the Legislature the authority to address the need for more efficiencies in state government, which should provide long-term savings for the taxpayers,” the governor said. “In this regard, I have provided the budget committee chairpersons an extensive list of efficiencies I have proposed.
“I have been talking with legislative leaders from both parties and I will continue to work with them until an agreement is reached,” Fallin said. “I wish we had an easy button to push but that is not reality. Our challenges in front of us are difficult and it will take great resolve and statesmanship for us to be successful.”
Fallin said it is important for lawmakers to provide sufficient revenues to meet the basic responsibilities of state government, such as education, health and public safety.
“We must deliver services that work for the people, and put people over politics,” the governor said.
“I have also provided the legislative authority to clarify our intention that the new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles not extend to the trucking industry,” she said.
Fallin said it’s time a permanent pay raise is enacted for public school teachers. However, the governor said a pay raise alone will not improve student outcomes, urging lawmakers to ensure more existing dollars are reaching the classroom by eliminating administrative inefficiencies.
“I encourage lawmakers to see this special session as an opportunity to change the fiscal course we are headed,” said Fallin. “I hope they seize the moment to pass legislation that makes more recurring revenue available, reduces our reliance on one-time funds, and puts our state on the path to success.”