Governor signs bill imposing cuts to Oklahoma agencies
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill late Tuesday that imposes across-the-board budget cuts to all state agencies, including public schools, for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Fallin signed the $6.98 billion general appropriations bill , which funds state agencies through June 30, after Republican leaders failed to reach a deal with Democrats on a sweeping package of tax increases that would have funded a teacher pay raise and helped stabilize the budget.
“Developing a budget in this difficult fiscal and political climate is never easy,” Fallin said in a statement. “This budget keeps government operating and, despite challenging circumstances, funds core mission services.”
The bill reduces monthly allocations to all state agencies by about 2 percent for the final four months of the fiscal year, or about 0.66 percent when annualized. The cuts will generate about $44.6 million to fund three state agencies that would otherwise run out of money: the Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Health Care Authority.
Fallin blamed the failure of the tax increase package on Democrats who opposed it, although opposition to the plan was bipartisan. Because of a constitutional requirement, any tax increase requires the support of a three-fourth’s majority of the Legislature, or 76 votes in the House.
Democrats maintained the Republican-backed series of tax increases on cigarettes, motor fuel and energy production placed too much of the burden on working-class Oklahomans. They wanted to include an increase in the income tax on high earners and a higher tax on oil and gas production.
“We think it’s regrettable that it came to this,” said House Democratic leader Rep. Steve Kouplen. R-Beggs. “We were certainly ready to negotiate a revenue package, but (Republicans) said: ‘It’s our way or the highway.’”
The Legislature convened two separate special sessions to try and reach a deal on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which was thrown out of balance when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled a tobacco tax was unconstitutional.
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