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Oklahoma House Approves One-Time Funding for Agencies Staring Down $215M Budget Hole

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The Oklahoma House went rogue Monday to make up for some of the cuts health and human service agencies are facing with the state’s $215 million budget hole.

House members passed four bills Monday allocating a total of $107 million in Rainy Day and carryover funds to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Department of Human Services. The measures are not part of the Republican budget plan announced a week ago that stalled in committee Friday on a tie vote.

Rep. Emily Virgin said that package of cigarette, tobacco, fuel and alcohol taxes was never a genuine offer.

"If the majority party truly believed that was the solution, that bill would have gotten out of committee," Virgin said.

Rep. Kevin Calvey said using one-time funds was an option from the beginning of special session. Calvey called Republican leaders’ budget deal announced a week ago a "flim flam."

"What we were treated to Monday and throughout this special session — an endless wave of wave after wave after wave of attempts to pressure us to vote for tax increases — is absolutely unnecessary," Calvey said.

Calvey is among a group of Republicans opposed to any tax increases by the legislature. Instead, they want to see more cuts in state government. Calvey said Monday he can point out examples of waste in higher education administration, public education and Medicaid, all of which should be audited. Calvey also said all Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust money should go toward Medicaid.

Majority Leader Jon Echols said the three-fourths requirement for tax increases is letting a minority in the legislature hold up better solutions than one-time spending and further cuts.

"And I don't mean a minority party. I mean a minority of the individuals in the legislature, if they so choose to, to stop anything from moving forward. That's where we are," Echols said.

Echols said the chance at a grand bargain is over, and lawmakers will turn their attention to measures that require simple rather than three-fourths majorities. One option could be raising the gross production tax on existing wells.

For now, the House is essentially waiting to see how the Senate and the governor respond to Monday's votes. The Senate must also approve the allocation of one-time funds.