Oklahoma Politics, Budget Woes Shrink Expectations

Monday, March 16th 2009, 7:14 am
By: News On 6

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Expectations are shrinking for accomplishments from the Oklahoma Legislature this year.

Political differences and a $900 million budget shortfall are chipping away at the legislative agendas of state House and state Senate leaders and Democratic Gov. Brad Henry.

Proposals to require health insurers to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism and expand early voting for high-turnout general elections have been dashed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

GOP-supported issues such as changing the way Oklahomans file and litigate lawsuits and requiring voters to provide proof of identity at the polls have survived but Henry won't necessarily sign them into law.

The budget shortfall also has played a large role in reducing expectations for legislative accomplishments this year.

Republican-supported tax cut bills have been approved in the state Senate but their long-term viability are in question because they would make the budget hole deeper.

Those include eliminating a state sales tax on groceries and lowering the maximum income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent.