by State Rep. Kevin Wallace
NOTE: The following is a column shared by Rep. Kevin Wallace who represents Lincoln and Logan counties.
The next legislative session starts Feb. 3. State lawmakers have filed measures that will be considered over the next four months and are hearing state agency budget requests for the next fiscal year.
Lawmakers already met their first three deadlines for the coming session. Bill requests had to be filed by Dec. 13. More than 3,000 bills and resolutions were requested this year between the House and the Senate. Legislators then worked with legal, fiscal and research staff members to draft substantive language for each bill. That deadline was Jan. 3. We then had until Jan. 16 to complete minor redrafts and formally file our bills. Session starts Monday, Feb. 3. After that, bills will be assigned to committees and the process of passing them through the House and Senate and onto the governor begins.
Jan. 28-30, the House and Senate will hold a series of joint budget hearings with six state agencies that receive a majority of state appropriations. On Jan. 28, we will hear from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Jan. 29, we will meet with the Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Jan. 30, the State Department of Education and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will discuss their budget requests for the next fiscal year. These hearings are open to the public and give lawmakers a chance to ask detailed questions of these agencies before our work begins in the legislative session.
We’ve also heard from other agencies through a series of joint budget hearings between the House and Senate, so we are getting a good grasp of agency requests for the next fiscal year. By the end of the session, we will have a balanced state budget to present to the governor.
The first day of session, the governor will deliver his State of the State Address, during which he will outline his budget hopes for the next fiscal year. It’s important to remember, however, that it is the job of the Legislature to appropriate funds from the General Revenue Fund each year to state agencies to provide programs and services and to conduct business on behalf of state residents. A portion of funding each year is already dedicated to specific uses such as transportation or education. What is left over is then appropriated between more than 60 state agencies.
While we’ve had several years of revenue growth coming off of a recession, this year is expected to be what is known as a flat budget year. While production is up for oil and gas, prices are down slightly and that will affect how much money the state has to appropriate. We will need to be very conservative in our approach. Thankfully, many of our state agencies are aware of our revenue situation, and therefore are asking for flat or lesser appropriations than the previous year. Still, things like education, health care, public safety and transportation will remain a priority.
Kevin Wallace serves District 32 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. District 32 encompasses Agra, Carney, Chandler, Coyle, Davenport, Fallis, Kendrick, Langston, Meeker, Meridian, Prague, Sparks, Stroud, Tryon, Warwick, Wellston. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7368 or via email at email@example.com.
Rep. Wallace, of Wellston, serves on the following legislative committees:
Appropriations and Budget, Chair
Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, Chair
Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, Co-Chair
Banking, Financial Services and Pensions
Energy and Natural Resources