Determined to raise taxes by perhaps more than a billion dollars a year, Gov. Mary Fallin surprised lawmakers by vetoing a compromise bill that would have mostly avoided tax increases.
Fallin’s action assures the extension of a special session that has lasted eight weeks with no tangible results. It is estimated a special session costs the state $30,000 a day. No date has been set for resumption of the special session.
“As governor, I would like nothing more than to adequately fund agencies,” Fallin said. “The constant budget crisis has put us in survival mode. I want us to thrive. We will thrive when we can adequately and consistently fund our core services. That will happen when we find sustainable and predictable revenue sources.”
Fallin vetoed 165 of the 170 sections in House Bill 1019. The sections she spared will temporarily fund the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and keep the Department of Health stable through the end of the fiscal year.
“The governor’s line-item veto of House Bill 1019X is a complete reversal of her promise to the Legislature and, frankly, to the people of Oklahoma,” said House Speaker Charles McCall. “Her actions alone create uncertainty in Oklahoma for healthcare services, business investment, job creation and spending, all of which are economic drivers for our state. This veto action interjects more chaos and drama into the lives of Oklahomans at a time when they want stability. The governor could have simply kept her word and stabilized the current situation for Oklahoma by signing the bill that she promised to sign, and then she could have called the Legislature back for her second special session. Instead, the governor has chosen to make the pursuit of her own priorities superior to the those of the people of Oklahoma.”
House Bill 1019 would have made nearly $60 million in cuts to agencies and used $60.2 million in revolving funds. It would have taken $46.3 million in cash from the Rainy Day Fund and carryover from last fiscal year.
“We are surprised by the governor’s veto,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Shultz, R-Altus. “The governor’s office was involved in the negotiation of the revised budget agreement, but did not indicate the agreement was insufficient and would be vetoed. The revised budget agreement was not the Senate’s first choice to resolve the budget crisis but it was the only option after the House showed it was not able to meet the constitutional standards of raising revenue. Bringing the Legislature back into special session at this point seems like a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. The governor’s veto doesn’t help Oklahoma thrive, it only serves to throw our budget further into chaos.”