After nearly three weeks of special session, there’s still no fix for Oklahoma’s budget.
Lawmakers are past the point where health and human service agencies have to make cuts to deal with the roughly $70 million apiece they stand to lose. Lawmakers remain in recess, with negotiations happening behind closed doors. Governor Fallin says she has an idea of what the problem is.
"Disagreement at the capitol about what direction we should go, but I think the big thing Oklahomans need to focus on and the legislature needs to focus on is what kind of state do we want to be? What do we want our image to be?" Fallin said.
The state has seen declines in education spending over the past several years, and recent budget issues have threatened long-planned transportation projects.
There are competing factions at the capitol: one wanting to start with a mulligan on the cigarette tax, one wanting a total budget package from the outset and one opposed to any tax increases. Fallin said state government has taken a lot of cuts already.
"We've seen a lot of our agencies take anywhere from 10 percent up to 60 percent cuts ... especially since 2009," Fallin said. "We've eliminated 4,100 state employee positions since 2009."
It’s been rumored a small caucus of lawmakers is holding up budget talks to get votes on abortion bills. Fallin said she doesn’t know anything about that, but Oklahoma is the most pro-life state in the nation and many vulnerable people are losing services right now.
"There are people who are also hurting and also have lives at risk if we don't fix the structure of our budget and quit having one-time expenditures to balance the budget and quit having revenue shortfalls that don't make Oklahoma look good," Fallin said.
Lawmakers have reported no progress since a purported budget deal announced last week by House Minority Leader Scott Inman was rebuffed by Fallin and Republican leaders.
Further complicating matters, the capitol is closed for repairs all next week.