Reasons for optimism about special session (Capitol Update)

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.

With special session underway, it’s rational to be cautiously optimistic that schools and state agencies will make it through this fiscal year, which ends next June, without further budget cuts. Remember, the current state budget has cuts in it already when compared with last year. And this has been true each year for the past several years, to the point that nearly everyone in a leadership position has recognized the need for additional revenue. The process broke down during the regular session over how much was needed and who ought to be called on to pay increased taxes.

What’s the cause for optimism? For one, Governor Fallin has decided to show leadership. She’s said she will veto any bill containing budget cuts. She also has said she will not use the meager remaining funds in the cash reserve fund or funds that might be available in the rainy-day fund to balance this year’s budget, which would only make the budget hole for next year worse. She is not setting the bar particularly high, but her position is courageous. She will be criticized by those in her own party who remain convinced that the only answer to Oklahoma’s budget woes is rooting out waste and corruption.

Another reason for optimism is that there’s not much chance that a budget-cutting bill veto would be overridden. There are more than enough Republican votes joined with Democrats to sustain a veto. Probably the most serious threat to avoiding further budget cuts is that the legislature could simply fail to pass anything and just adjourn and go home. If that happens the cuts would automatically occur. Again, I’m optimistic there are enough Republicans, together with Democrats who would simply refuse to abandon their responsibilities and hit the road.

Any optimism for a result beyond avoiding further current year cuts would probably be, in the words of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan , “irrational exuberance.” Senate leadership seems to be sticking with the theme that there’s insufficient time in a special session to consider proposals that haven’t been previously vetted. House leadership doesn’t seem too interested in anything beyond avoiding further cuts, even if it takes scraping together more one-time money. The Democrats are still talking about holding their votes as leverage for tax fairness. And the governor, although she put long-range budget solutions and a teacher pay raise in her special session call, hasn’t said anything about fighting for them. Their presence in the call may be aspirational only.

Having said all that, the political landscape, together with recent constitutional rulings should make the special session interesting, meaning it carries the possibility for surprise, drama, disappointment or success-or none of the above.

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Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

One thought on “Reasons for optimism about special session (Capitol Update)

  1. I think they should allow dice and marble games at all the Oklahoma casinos. That will generate revenue.
    I don’t know how much because nobody wants to find out. Bible Belt Blindness!!!!!!!!!!!!

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