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Special session possibility seen

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Legislature has adjourned for the weekend without a budget agreement and a Senate leader says a special session is possible if something is not worked out soon.

Education and health care funding appear to be the major obstacles, along with deciding how to distribute the state's first installments from the national tobacco settlement.

Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, said Thursday he had told his members the threat of a special session is "very real."

House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, said the Senate had rejected the House's latest budget offer, which included a $40 million appropriation for higher education.

Benson indicated the Senate was pushing to use some tobacco funds for colleges and universities and the House would not go along with that.

"We're not going to pour tobacco money in the hole over there that they seem to want to pour it into," he said.

With only two weeks left in the session, budget writers are far behind schedule.

As of Thursday, leaders of the Democratic majority in the House and Senate had made allocations to appropriations subcommittees so the final budget could be written.

Benson is pushing to use a $36 million of the tobacco money for Medicaid supplements that would help rural hospitals.

Not counting tobacco funds, he said only $33 million is left to distribute to subcommittees.

"We will go for $40 million for higher ed if they accept our health-care initiative," he said.
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