Sometime before 5:00 this Friday, the Legislature will adjourn sine die. This means that the second regular session of the 50 th Legislature will finish its business and adjourn for the year. That is under normal circumstances. But this year the Senate and the House seem to be unable to come to an agreement on the budget. Therefore a special session to pass the appropriation bills and a budget seems to be a certainty.
The Legislature went into special session last year to consider Worker's Compensation Reform and funding for the Department of Corrections. That special session is technically still pending so the Governor needs to just amend the business for that special session to include this year's budget.
Of course that will mean that the will of the people may well be circumvented. They enacted a constitutional provision to end the regular session on the last Friday in May to prevent such failures. Also it will mean spending more money each day that the special session is actually convened. The worst scenario however, is that all state agencies, schools, and universities are unable to budget for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 until an agreement is reached.
It seems strange that the Democrat Governor and the Republican House Speaker could come to an agreement on the basic framework of the budget in less than a week. The House and the Senate were unable to come to an agreement in over three months of negotiations. Both Todd Hiett and Brad Henry were able to compromise and still find common ground to help grow Oklahoma. Neither side received everything that they wanted, but both were able to give the state much of what they thought it needed.
The governor was able to get money that can be used only on single year expenditures to help with a couple of his pet projects. That included $150 million for the EDGE endowment and $50 million for an Opportunity Fund. This fund would be used to help entice new business to Oklahoma when it most needed to seal a deal.
The Speaker was able to get some of the tax cuts that he wanted. He compromised from asking for $500 million in tax cuts to receiving $191 million for this fiscal year. That included a three-year phase out of the estate tax. It also reduced the income tax from 6.25% to 5.5%. Both of these tax cuts that were included in the budget compromise were tax cuts that were passed by the Senate earlier in the session.
The agreement also left about $125 million on the table for the Senate to spend as they saw fit. The Senate could use the extra money for any number of their pet projects. They could also negotiate new amounts for expenditures. However nothing seemed to satisfy the Senate. Instead they choose to simply do nothing but blame those who had actually done something about the budget.
Before the budget negotiations had even begun back in March the Senate leadership had predicted that a special session would be needed. They predicted that the budget negotiations would fail and it seems that they fulfilled their own prophecy. For the good of Oklahoma the special session must yield different results.
Boise City News