Week No. 8 of 56th Legislature
Total Senate Bills and SJRs introduced in 2017: 877
Total reported from committees: 412
Total reported out of the Senate: 347
WIND TAX CREDITS
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved HB 2298 (McCall and Schulz) which implements an earlier sunset date of the zero-emissions tax credit
o The sunset date would become July 1, 2017
o Facilities must be in operation by that date in order to claim the credit
The original incentive was put in place to help the wind industry “get off the ground” in Oklahoma
We currently rank as the No. 3 state in terms of wind power
Cleary the incentive worked and moving up the sunset date provides long-term stability to the state budget process
The Senate continues to work on the state budget – it’s a constant and continual process
The House Democrats have proposed a budget plan and to no one’s surprise it calls for $1.4 billion in tax increases
o The Oklahoma economy is just now recovering from a significant two-year contractions
o Raising taxes at the level the House Democrats demand will evaporate what little momentum the economy has
To help fill the $875 million budget shortfall, all options are on the table including tax increases: but don’t forget tax increases have to garner 76 votes in the House before the Senate can consider
Let’s not forget three important ways we can also help find revenue for the state before we look at raising taxes:
o Tax Credit reform: eliminating credits that aren’t creating jobs and are siphoning money away from core services.
o Apportionment reform: bringing more “off-the-top” money into the General Revenue Fund so it’s available for the Legislature to appropriate to fund core priorities
o Agency efficiencies: ensuring agencies are operating as efficiently as possible, this is in “good” and “bad” budget times
At the end of the day, Senate Republicans want to balance the budget in a way that mitigates the effects of budget cuts as much as possible.
DHS FUNDING The Senate approved a measure this week to provide the Department of Human Services an additional total $34 million for this fiscal year
o The move should allow the agency to make it through the remainder of this fiscal year without cutting important services
o Approximately $4 million comes from the RDF and $30 million comes from the Unclaimed Property Fund
OIDS FUNDING: The Senate also approved a measure to provide supplemental funding of $710,000 for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, which provides legal representation in criminal court for those who can’t afford it in all counties except Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
COURT FUNDING: the Senate also approved SB 835, which allows the Oklahoma Supreme Court ability to transfer money from existing revolving funds.
RAINY DAY FUND
The state’s Finance Secretary (Preston Doerflinger) borrowed $240 million from the constitutional Rainy Day Fund to help pay month-to-month expenses of state government
o This announcement was first made by the Finance Secretary at the February Board of Equalization meeting
o OMES says the funds will be repaid to the RDF once income tax collections pick up after the April tax-filing deadline
o Senate leadership aware of and looking into concerns raised by some about the transfers