Gov. Mary Fallin calls on Oklahoma lawmakers to fix state's budget problems before they worsen



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OKLAHOMA CITY — While Oklahoma's economy is rebounding strongly from the recession, the Legislature will have less money to spend on state programs due to a broken revenue system that needs to be fixed before it gets worse, Gov. Mary Fallin warned legislators Monday.

During her annual State of the State speech, the Republican governor told legislators that decisions they've made in the past to divert revenue to special programs or tax credits are hampering their ability to spend money in the best way they see fit.

"In 2007, the Legislature appropriated 55 cents of every dollar taken in by the government. Last year, that declined to 47 cents," Fallin said. "That means that today, the Legislature has significantly fewer total dollars to appropriate than in the past, despite the state collecting significantly more money.

"Slowly but surely, elected representatives are losing the ability to guide state priorities and the flexibility they need to respond to changing circumstances."

Fallin proposed the Oklahoma Legislature spend every other year dedicated exclusively to working on the budget, without the distraction of legislation dealing with a variety of other topics. More than 2,000 bills and resolutions have been filed in the House and Senate for the legislative session that continues until the end of May.

Fallin also delivered her executive budget proposal for how she thinks roughly $7 billion should be divided among various state agencies. The governor is proposing lawmakers take $300 million from state agency revolving accounts to help offset a projected shortfall in next year's budget. Under her proposal most stage agencies would see cuts of about 6.25 percent, but she is proposing funding increases for public schools, prisons, mental health, welfare and the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program.

Fallin also said she wants to increase the number of high school and college graduates, address prison overcrowding and improve the state's health.

The governor also urged the Legislature to consider a ban on texting while driving and fund the completion of the Native American Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.

Fallin's 34-minute speech began with a moment of silence to recognize two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers involved in a deadly car accident Saturday.


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