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February 3, 2013

Legislative session opens more optimistic

NORMAN — It wasn’t that long ago when an up and coming Noble municipal employee Scott Martin was called on to work on the city garbage truck route. Fast forward a few years to now Rep. Scott Martin, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

Mr. Martin will want to keep those trashy tasks top of mind this week as a new session of the Oklahoma Legislature begins. His appointment is important to the state and Cleveland County as lawmakers begin their work. Everything, it seems, starts with the budget.

“The longer I’m in this business the longer I talk,” Martin joked with members of the Norman Chamber of Commerce this past week. A day later Rep. Martin and other Republican leaders unveiled their agenda for the session.

Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to embrace most of those ideas, including a reduction in the state income tax rate, in her State of the State address Monday from the Capitol.

Lawmakers expect to have up to $200 million more to appropriate this fiscal year. That often produces more headaches as it’s easier when you tell everyone no.

Rep. Martin said the state will pass a balanced budget as required by the Constitution but state agencies that also deal with federal funds could be in jeopardy.

“Regardless of what they do we’re going to have a balanced budget,” Mr. Martin said. “They may take action in October that will affect us during our fiscal year.”

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