Kaye Beach

Senate GOP Caucus Wants December Session

In Oklahoma Economy on November 20, 2009 at 8:02 pm

From the McCarville Report Online

Nov. 19, 2009

The Senate Republican Caucus today called on Governor Brad Henry to call the Legislature into special session in December, rather than waiting until January, as he suggested earlier this week. “It’s very clear that more reductions in spending are inevitable,” said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, “and agency heads are awaiting our direction as to how much their budgets will be reduced. “We believe it is prudent, given the fiscal crisis facing all state agencies, to come in, examine the numbers as an entire body, and make the hard decisions sooner rather than later,” he continued. “We have a good feel for the direction revenues are heading, so why wait any longer?” Coffee pointed out that Senate Appropriations Subcommittees have been meeting over the past weeks, and getting reports from agency heads projecting how cuts of 5%m 7.5% and 10% would impact their agencies. “Agency heads are willing to make the tough calls,” Coffee said. “They just need to know when and how much. It’s not a pleasant task, but we all understand the reality of the times in which we’re operating.” Paul Sund, Communications Director Henry, said, “Governor Henry is certainly open to discussion on any special session timetable, but he also believes it is critical for state lawmakers to do their budget homework first, so their time will be used efficiently and effectively if an emergency meeting is convened. Special sessions are expensive, and with the current revenue crisis facing the state, it’s especially important that taxpayers get their money’s worth with a well-informed, well-prepared Legislature. “As he noted in his budget plan earlier this week, the governor believes legislators must conduct a series of detailed public hearings on the revenue crisis and the consequences of deeper budget cuts, and that has not happened yet. As we learned with the senior nutrition program, many lawmakers were not aware of the impact of the current budget reductions, much less the impact of deeper cuts. “Before acting in special session, lawmakers must also receive an official, more reliable revenue estimate for the current fiscal year and a new, official estimate for next fiscal year, actions that will not take place until Dec. 21 when the State Board of Equalization holds its annual meeting to approve revenue projections as required by law. Because November revenue collection data will not be available until mid-December, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to have revised, reliable budget estimates available before then. “Clearly, a lot of work must still be done to pave the way for a productive special session, but Governor Henry stands ready to work with legislative leaders to address the budget crisis as quickly as possible, even if takes a Christmas special session to do it.”

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