Senate Session Update ~ week 8


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

BUDGET

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.

Supplemental Appropriations

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

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