Fallin signs budget to avert state government shutdown (The Ada News)

By Janelle Stecklein

OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite repeatedly threatening to veto it and noting that it’s not “ideal,” Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed off on the Legislature’s $6.8 billion budget plan.

“This plan keeps our government from shutting down and, despite challenging circumstances, funds our core mission services,” Fallin said in a statement. “We worked hard to protect key core services — common education, health and human services and public safety.”

Fallin said the state’s budget bill helped closed an $878 million shortfall while maintaining public school funding and preventing the closure of rural hospitals and nursing homes.

But she noted when lawmakers reconvene in 2018, they’ll already face a $400 million budget hole, which will include $100 million in outstanding debt that will come due.

Still, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz praised the budget, which he called “difficult.”

“Like most budgets passed by the Legislature, the (fiscal year 2018) budget is not a perfect bill, but it is an incredible accomplishment considering the Legislature had to deal with a budget hole of $1 billion and some refused to compromise,” he said in a statement.

Critics of the budget, though, said they were disappointed Fallin didn’t follow through on repeated threats to veto the measure and force lawmakers back to the Capitol to fix lingering issues during a special session.

“The results of this budget will be a continuing exodus of teachers from Oklahoma schools, larger class sizes and fewer educational opportunities, failing protections for public health and safety, and collapsing support for children, seniors, and Oklahomans with disabilities — in other words, more of the same, but worse,” said the bipartisan coalition Save Our State in a statement.

Looking at the bills that were signed by Fallin, most Oklahomans would view this year’s session as “a disappointment,” the Oklahoma Policy Institute think tank said in a statement.

The Tulsa-based group said lawmakers knew they had to address issues like uncompetitive teacher pay, an overburdened criminal justice system and long waits for mental health treatment and at-home disability care.

“As the session limps to a close, lawmakers have failed to address any of these problems,” the group said.

More damage, meanwhile, will be done to the state, said Tulsa-based Together Oklahoma, a nonpartisan group of Oklahomans hoping to help shape state budget priorities.

“There’s no point in waiting for someone else to fix it,” the group said in a statement. “Our trust is eroded and our frustration is high. Oklahoma can and must do better.”

Lawmakers could still face a special session, however.

Groups threatened to sue over votes taken the final week of session to generate hundreds of millions in new revenue by increasing “fees” or levies on a plethora of items, including cigarettes, car sales and the oil and gas industry’s gross production rates.

Laws prohibit legislators from passing revenue-raising measures in the final five days of session and require those measures to receive the approval of three-quarters of lawmakers, not a simple majority.

Critics of the measures say if the state’s Supreme Court finds lawmakers acted illegally, it will blow a huge hole in the budget. In that scenario, Fallin has said she’d likely have to call lawmakers back into special session as early as July to fix the issue.



Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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