Gov. Brad Henry says today a special session in January could be an option to address the state’s revenue shortfall.
The governor outlined a three-point plan to address the state’s budget challenges – a more reliable state revenue estimate, a series of public hearings on budget reductions and a possible special session to use the state’s savings account and implement targeted cuts to balance this fiscal year’s budget.
Ultimate budget decisions will hinge on revenue estimates for the next fiscal year during December’s meeting of the state Board of Equalization, he said. The panel also will review its projections for this fiscal year.
The Democratic governor says he is concerned about the effects of the 5 percent across-the-board cuts in monthly state allocations to state agencies. The cuts went into effect in August because revenues came in much less than expected.
He’d like to use a substantial amount of the nearly $600 million in the state’s savings account, the Rainy Day Fund, for this fiscal year and implement targeted cuts to balance the budget. Revenue collections for the first third of the fiscal year, which started July 1, are about 22 percent below estimates.
Republican legislative leaders are resisting a special session. They say steeper cuts should be implemented now to keep from using all of the Rainy Day Fund for this fiscal year. They say some of that money may be necessary for the next fiscal year that begins in July.
Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, is still circulating a petition to get two-thirds of his mates to sign it, which would force the governor to call a special session.
He’s got about 30 signatures after two weeks. He needs 100: 68 from the House and 32 from the Senate. At last check, just Democrats had signed. The GOP outnumbers Democrats 62-39 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate.
Corn, who is running for lieutenant governor, started his petition drive the same day about 400 came to the Capitol to oppose cuts to the state’s senior nutrition programs. House Republicans were meeting in a retreat in Claremore.
A Republican House member, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the House GOP caucus, said a couple Republican members said they told leaders they were concerned Democrats were gaining a political edge by showing up at the rally seeking the restoration of funds for the senior nutrition programs. Many railed against Republicans, in charge of both chambers for the first time in state history, for not restoring the funds or supporting a special session to deal with the issue.
A House leader told them to remain calm, and that they shouldn’t get caught up in political rhetoric. Any lumps they take in the public relations battle are the consequences of being in the majority party and having the power to make decisions.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau