Agency funding cut $3.8 million

Wednesday, December 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Three state agencies were hit hard by reduced budget allocations Wednesday as state Finance Director Tom Daxon complied with an Oklahoma Supreme Court order.

In authorizing monthly allocations exceeding $340 million, Daxon withheld $3.8 million from agency budgets. The money withheld came from an appropriations bill invalidated by the state high court.

All parties in the case have asked the court to suspend its ruling, but a stay had not been granted by late Wednesday.

``Without relief from the court or legislative action, I am bound to move forward with the allocation of funds based on last week's decision,'' Daxon said. ``Should the court grant the requested stay, we will immediately release the withheld funds to state agencies.''

Some agencies were not involved in the reduced allocations; some had reductions as little as $100.

The state Department of Agriculture, the Insurance Department and the Horse Racing Commission received no money at all to operate this month.

Gordon Hare, executive director of the Racing Commission, said the agency would have to cut back on travel and licensing activities, but could make payroll this month.

``But if there is no reversal, we may have to shut down operations as of Jan. 1,'' Hare said.

The Agriculture agency did not get its normal $2.1 million allocation. Lynne Davis, deputy agriculture commissioner, said the agency will delay some major purchases and curtail other expenditures, including nonessential travel.

Davis said officials believe there is enough money in revolving funds to get by through December, but ``it will be close in January'' and more drastic action may be required.

Carroll Fisher, state insurance commissioner, said his agency could absorb the $251,000 it will not get.

``We'll adjust our budgets and tighten our belts. No services to be public will be affected by this,'' he said. He said he anticipated the money would be restored by the Legislature in February.

Earlier Wednesday, House Republican Leader Fred Morgan called for legislative leaders to reconvene a special session ``immediately in order to avoid a partial government shutdown.''

The Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit filed by Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, and his fellow House Republicans. The suit said a $70 million funding bill passed by the 2001 Legislature was unconstitutional because it embraced more than one subject.

The Supreme Court agreed and issued a ruling that had the effect of immediately knocking out funding in a so-called ``reconciliation'' bill passed at the end of the session.

House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, said it will be necessary for lawmakers to convene in January to take corrective action if the court does not stay its ruling.

``Whatever we have to do, we're going to do it,'' Adair said.