Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives called for discussion on a contingency plan for if the state loses some or all of the more than $300 million in revenue at risk due to lawsuits. They also announced a public meeting Aug. 3 in order to receive feedback from constituents on the impact of state budget cuts.
“If this is truly the people’s house, and this is the people’s budget, we feel it’s important to get their input and we invite them to take an active role in this meeting,” Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said. “Special interests and lobbyists had their say on the budget during the four-month regular session, and it’s put the state in a real bind.”
Democrats hope to cut down the length of a potential special session, which typically costs $30,000 per day, according to a press release from the Democratic Caucus.
“If we wait until our backs are against the wall, a special session could last weeks while negotiations are ongoing,” Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, said. “We need to get negotiations completed now to meet the contingencies that are likely to arise.”
The state risks losing funds from SB 845, which increased state fees on cigarette packs, and HB 2433, which added a 1.25 percent sales tax on motor vehicle sales. Those bills were slated to provide $70 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, $75 million to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and $69 million to the Department of Human Services, as well as funding to the general revenue, education, public safety and the teacher’s retirement system.
“We know that every dollar in the budget means something to somebody. Whether it’s access to medical care, access to food, access to education, these dollars are meaningful,” Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said. “The people should have the opportunity, without the interference of political games; to tell lawmakers what they believe is a priority for the state.”
According to the press release, the public meeting will be held on Aug. 3 in the House Chamber at the State Capitol, beginning at 5 p.m. Members of the public who want to address legislators need to call 405-557-7401 and provide their name and topic they wish to discuss by 4:30 p.m. Aug. 1.