Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crafting Budgets is Tricky Work

The state budget is in many ways the most difficult task for lawmakers every year. I, like many Oklahomans, am never satisfied with all the decisions that are made, but I do acknowledge the fact that the budget is a collaborative process, with many cooks in the kitchen. It will therefore never make anyone happy, but at its best reflects a general consensus of priorities rather than simply rubberstamping agency requests.

The budget we craft this session will be the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013 and ending June 30, 2014. The Oklahoma Constitution requires lawmakers to create a balanced budget for the state, based on revenue projections.

In December, the State Board of Equalization estimated the amount lawmakers will have to appropriate during the upcoming session for the next fiscal year. In January, we received funding requests from agencies and other appropriated entities.

In her February State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin set a starting point of negotiations with lawmakers.  That same month, the State Board of Equalization officially certified the final amount lawmakers may appropriate, approximately $7 billion for fiscal year 2014.

The budget takes the form of multiple bills, including a General Appropriations bill to fund state government at an agreed-upon base level in the event a final budget cannot be approved. Soon, House and Senate leaders will appoint a joint General Conference Committee on Appropriations, which will negotiate the budget with the governor.

The budget is then presented to the members of the House and Senate in their respective chambers. Once the budget has been approved by both chambers of the Legislature, the bill is sent to the governor for approval or veto. If the governor vetoes the budget, the Legislature can override the veto by two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.

I know that I will disagree with many of the choices made in the budget. Last year, I created my own budget to show constituents what my priorities would be and I will do so again this year. My biggest priorities are funding for K-12 schools, corrections, public safety and roads.

As always, it is my pleasure to hear from you and if I may ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 557-7349.

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