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Oklahoma Democrats Call For Improved State Budgeting Process

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Democratic state lawmakers said this week they will run legislation next session to improve Oklahoma’s budgeting process.

From the announcement of an agreement by Republican leaders to the budget’s final passage, just one week went by. Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd said that didn’t give enough time for lawmakers or citizens to read and understand the plan.

"You don’t ask somebody to buy a home and sign a mortgage without reading it first. You don’t ask somebody to make a major purchase of a vehicle and tell them, 'We’ll explain to you how you’re going to pay for it later.' Major decisions regarding people’s budgets should be treated the same way … as we do a budget for the entire state," Floyd said during a news conference Thursday ahead of the Senate's vote on the $8.8 billion appropriations bill.

Floyd said she found budget chairs responsive to questions but the overall process needs to be improved. 

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said it’s unacceptable that the budget was built behind closed doors by just a few people.

"Because let me be clear, it’s not just Democrats who were left out of the process, it’s also the vast majority of legislative Republicans. This was a surprise to most legislators in this building," Virgin said.

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat defended the process ahead of Thursday’s final floor vote on the budget, saying it had been in the works for a while and was down to just a handful of disagreements when he got involved.

"This budget is not a result of shady deals, it’s not a result of things happening behind the scenes. It’s a result of negotiation," Treat said.

Neither Floyd nor Virgin had details on what bills to improve Oklahoma’s budget process may entail, but Oklahoma was among the last of 47 states that had to pass a budget this year to introduce one.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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