OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Republican officials are keeping a tight lid on who would get how much money under next year’s state budget proposal, and several legislators — Democrat and Republican alike — are complaining they haven’t been included in the negotiations.
Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker T. W. Shannon and a handful of other high-level Republicans say they meet regularly to negotiate the budget’s outlines, which could be introduced to the full Legislature in the coming week or two. Several legislators said the rest of the Legislature has been left out, essentially excluding from the process the elected representatives of more than 9 in 10 Oklahomans.
“I represent the same number of people as any of the leadership, and so do you,” Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, told his House colleagues Wednesday during debate on a driver’s license fee bill. “And if we all had the same say in the budget ... public safety would be on the first things we would fund. Education would be one of the first things we would fund. Infrastructure, highways and bridges, we would fund it.”
A handful of Republicans joined in voicing their frustration, including Rep. Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, a reliably outspoken critic of the state’s budget practices.
“You’re not even here to push a button, I guess,” he said heatedly on the House floor. “I don’t know why you’re here. I don’t know why any of us are here, because the leadership has already decided.”
It’s unclear when the budget will be unveiled — only that it will be soon. The regular session must end by the last Friday of May.
In a meeting with reporters last week, Shannon said he, the governor, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and both chambers’ appropriations committee chairmen and vice chairmen have met at least once each week to go over the budget.