by State Representative Kevin Wallace
Oklahoma House District 32
The Legislature came back into session on April 6 to vote on several bills that would allow state services to continue without interruption for the remainder of this fiscal year. The House voted 100-0 to move money from the state’s Rainy Day and Revenue Stabilization Funds to cover a gap that exists for this current fiscal year due to an expected revenue failure.
The Legislature said last year when it voted to save $200 million and in previous years when we established the Revenue Stabilization Fund that our savings would be for just such an occurrence as what is happening right now.
The governor, however, refused to fulfill his statutory duties and in effect is holding the Board of Equalization hostage, refusing to let the board meet to declare the revenue failure. The revenue failure doesn’t cease to exist, however, just because a board hasn’t met to declare it.
The governor accused the Legislature of brokering some kind of backroom deal and going back on our word. He even went so far as to say that where he comes from – Tulsa – a man’s word is his bond. He makes it sound as if he would be ok with some backroom deal as long as all players went along.
The truth is, many budget talks do take place between House and Senate leaders and the governor’s representative and his staff before the final product is brought to the public to be debated and defended. I have been transparent about this process always. But the fact that the governor is crying foul over this process now because he didn’t get one item on his wish list is akin to him saying we had a secret handshake and pinky promised but they broke our deal. I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s reckless behavior and his boyish insistence that he get his own way, or he will make all Oklahomans suffer.
I’m honestly not sure the outcome at this point. The Legislature has fully funded Fiscal Year 20 core services and is waiting for the governor to complete his job.
We’ve given the governor the ability to spend up to $50 million on the current declared health emergency to deal with COVID-19. He has charge over state and county health departments to allow them to work as a cohesive unit to combat the health crisis that exists. He can utilize the National Guard to monitor health care supplies and equipment and establish field hospitals should they be necessary. We’ve relaxed some HIPPA regulations so first responders can be made aware when they are called to treat a person that has tested positive for COVID-19.
This governor, however, seems to want unlimited power, and if not given it, he is willing to make the entire state suffer. Again, I reiterate my disappointment in his actions, and pray we can find a way forward that benefits all Oklahomans.
On a final note, I want to remind you that if you have not yet done so, please fill out your Census form. To date, only about 42% of the state has completed this survey. That would mean that we get only about 42% of the federal dollars we deserve. Imagine if we had to survive the current pandemic with only half the amount we are due.
You can do fill out the Census online at https://www.census.gov, or you can call in and answer questions at (844) 330-2020, or you can mail back the paper questionnaire sent to your home in the return envelope provided or, if you have lost the envelope, to the U.S. Census Bureau National Processing Center, 1201 E 10th Street, Jeffersonville, IN 47132.
Please be counted so that we can secure necessary funding to help you in days ahead.
Kevin Wallace serves District 32 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7368 or via email at email@example.com.