The current discussion about state politics is centered on the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s recent opinion stating the cigarette fee that the legislature passed earlier this year is unconstitutional, therefore leaving a $215 million budget hole that will need to be filled. Whether you agree with the court’s decision or not is irrelevant, due to the fact the governor’s office is going to comply and isn’t interested in pressing the issue.
The $215 million that the cigarette fee was expected to generate went to three main agencies: the Departments of Human Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and Health Care Authority. The state realistically has 3 options on how to deal with the issue.
1. The state can do nothing and allow the cuts to automatically take place. The cuts would be pretty severe to a couple agencies in particular; however, if the state does not call a special session, that is what will happen.
2. Call the legislature into a special session and distribute the $215 million shortfall across multiple agencies which would lessen the negative impact on these three agencies. However, this would require the General Appropriation bill to be re-opened and then the fierce debating would begin again over where the money goes.
3. Call the legislature into special session and attempt to raise revenue through other measures. The reason I voted against the General Appropriations bill last year (and every year I have been up there) is because the legislature still had not fixed many of the ways that we are being irresponsible with our tax policy and how certain agencies are abusing taxpayer dollars. If we could call a special session and actually fix some of these issues, it would increase revenue by being very fiscally conservative and responsible.
I don’t have a good indicator on what will actually happen; however, it will be one of the options above that I listed. Until we actually fix some of the issues I just noted, it still isn’t going to be great. The Democrats at the state level are proclaiming if the Republicans would just raise the Gross Production Tax on oil wells and raise the income tax, our state would have a surplus of funding and everything would be great. This just shows how exceptionally ignorant some people are.
It isn’t just one issue that Oklahoma has, it is a multitude issues that I have outlined time and again. Everything from poor tax policies, to horrible budgeting practices, to agencies that have a huge spending problem.
The Senate has already had multiple meetings about this issue, and I will continue to keep everyone updated on what possible fix we can come up with. As always, feel free to contact me anytime.
In God We Trust,
Senator Joseph W. Silk
Oklahoma State Senate District 5
405-521-5614 Capitol Office