Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.
Those who are golfers, which I’m not, are familiar with a Mulligan. But you don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy the benefits of a Mulligan. The term is now widely used to describe any “do-over,” or second chance after initial failure. The Supreme Court has given the Legislature a Mulligan to write an adequate and balanced state budget. The Court did so by assuming original jurisdiction of the measures that produced revenue for this year’s budget, and by ruling as quickly as a decent respect for giving all sides a chance to make their legal arguments would allow. The fiscal year has barely begun, so if the Legislature will act with the same dispatch as the Court, the damage will be limited.
I suspect the rulings on the other measures will come quite quickly, possibly this week, so legislators and the governor will know the size of the budget hole their initial failure has created. The deficit is at $215 million now, mostly affecting health care agencies, and could go higher depending on the Court’s rulings. Without the cigarette fee revenue, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority will lose $70 million, 7 percent of its appropriation; the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will lose $76 million, 23 percent of its budget; and the Department of Human Services will lose $69 million, a 10 percent cut.
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