State Lawmakers Prepare For 2018 Legislative Session
OKLAHOMA CITY - The state legislative session begins Monday, and it’s going to be a tough one.
Lawmakers have to fill a hole in this year’s budget then fill an even bigger hole in next year’s budget, as they consider increasing taxes give the state some stability.
Since lawmakers passed an unconstitutional tax on tobacco last year, they still have to fill a $65-million budget hole this year. The state may also have to pay an additional $75-million to medical colleges in the state for graduate medical education benefits through the healthcare authority.
Going into next year, the state faces a budget deficit of somewhere between 250-and-650 million dollars. It’s hard to say for sure until we know how much the state has brought in in tax collections.
During Governor Mary Fallin’s final state of the state address of her career, “My big focus this year is going to be on solving the budget crisis and putting us on a stable path forward. Getting some predictability. Getting rid of the uncertainty we’ve been experiencing for the last many years.”
Specifically, the governor will urge lawmakers to back the so called “Step Up OK” Plan. That’s a combination of revenue raisers and government reforms proposed by a group of business and community leaders. The revenue raisers include an increase on the taxes on tobacco, gasoline and diesel fuel, and the production of oil and natural gas called gross production.
The governor wants voters on board. “Step up, call your legislators and tell them to fix these issues. We have a plan that is bi-partisian. Has brought everybody to the table. There are things in there I don’t like. Things I do like.”
The number one plan the governor like, “Of course the teacher pay raise is the big thing. It will go a long ways if we can find a raise for our teachers because education is the key to success in our state.”
The changes proposed by Step Up OK would bring in about $750- million in new revenue each year, with about $285 million of that going to provide $5,000 annual raises for teachers and principals.