Both houses of the Legislature this week passed a resolution, SJR 12, that would allow this year’s session to adjourn sine die on May 22nd, one week earlier than scheduled. The goal, explained President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, is to wrap up business before the Memorial Day long weekend rather than return and work through the final week leading up to the constitutionally-mandated adjournment at 5:00 pm on the last Friday of May.
While the hope to get done and get home may be widely shared, there is a countervailing sense that I heard expressed by insiders at the Capitol this week that negotiating a budget agreement this year is going to be especially long and difficult. Right now, all budget deliberations are on hold while the state awaits additional regulations and instructions from the federal government about the terms and conditions governing the use of federal stimulus act dollars. The current consensus is that no decisions can be made about how to manage next year’s $600-million drop in available revenue until further instructions are handed down from Washington. The most eagerly-awaited guidance concerns the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which will provide Oklahoma with $578 million, subject to various restrictions (the U.S. Department of Education has provided some information here). Getting federal guidance, working through the various implications, and reaching consensus on the appropriate mix of state and federal funds for next year’s budget may take the Legislature not only until the very end of May, but perhaps beyond.