Members of the State Senate convened last week for the first day of the legislative session. We met briefly in the Senate chamber, and then moved into joint session shortly thereafter in the House chamber to hear the Governor’s State of the State address.
As the new session begins and given the challenges of the past year, it will be essential to look ahead at the budget situation, and this month we’ve heard from many state agencies in various House and Senate committees. These meetings give agency directors and leaders the opportunity to present information to legislators to consider when determining next year’s appropriations.
Last month, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported December’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections exceeded both the estimate and the prior year. We should be encouraged by this report, but we also must stay focused on the task of finding long term, sustainable solutions to steady the state’s economic situation. The increase seen last month is largely due to the changes implemented during last year’s session, many of which increased revenue collection. During the first special session, lawmakers also approved a bill raising the gross production tax on legacy wells from 4 to 7 percent. The progress is notable and encouraging, but our work is not done. State agencies and taxpayers are counting on state leaders to make fiscally prudent decisions to sustain core government services and functions. With a challenging year ahead of us, it’s more important than ever for legislators to focus on sustainable solutions that produce significant results.
This week was my first leadership meeting as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. Among many items on the agenda for discussion was the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which has been proposed to stabilize state revenue, reform government and raise teacher pay by $5,000 a year. Other items included in this proposal are a call for the legislature to be required to pass a line-item budget, as well as raising legislator term limits to 16 cumulative years. Increased accountability for state agencies, as well as putting the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket are also part of this proposal. One of the proposed reforms for county government would grant voters the authority to tailor county government to their local needs, allowing collaboration in county services. Another component of the Step Up plan would lower the supermajority required in the legislature for revenue raising measures from 75% to 60%. As with many issues, change can create pros and cons. My approach to these issues is to be protective of the taxpayer’s interest.
As with any legislative package or proposal, it will impact several groups and it’s always challenging to balance the unique needs of each group with the financial stability of the state as a whole. I will always be cautious about overtaxing people outside of government entities. Some reforms outlined in the Step Up Oklahoma plan offer productive proposals, while many others are lacking sufficient details to be considered for full support.
If you have any questions about state government or concerns about legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing to me at Senator Marty Quinn, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 528B, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.