State Lawmakers Turn to Oklahoma Supreme Court in Budget Battle with Stitt

Apr 15, 2020

Credit Serge Melki

The state’s top lawmakers asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday to intervene in their budget dispute with Gov. Kevin Stitt.

House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat have filed a lawsuit to force the State Board of Equalization to declare a revenue failure.

Stitt chairs the board and abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting last week after lawmakers sent him three bills that closed a projected $416.8 million budget hole but blocked any dollars from going to his Digital Transformation Fund.

Stitt said canceling the equalization board meeting keeps lawmakers from withdrawing more than $300 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

"Until the Board of Equalization meets, the constitution says the Board of Equalization has got to certify any kind of revenue failure to pull money out of the Rainy Day Fund. So, that bill cannot be activated until you have a Board of Equalization meeting," Stitt said last week after signing two of the three bills, fully funding state government through April.

Stitt accused state lawmakers of playing "Washington, D.C. politics." Budget negotiators said Stitt did not attend meetings with them and his representative, Budget Secretary Mike Mazzei, agreed to the proposal not to send money to the Digital Transformation Fund.

Absent a revenue failure, agency budgets would be cut to make up the budget shortfall. 

"For fiscal year [2020], it is our hope to fully backfill the agencies with this money and not have any cuts in fiscal year 20, our current fiscal year," Treat said last week.