WEEK 1 – 2016:

 The Senate this year filed 704 Senate bills and 42 Senate Joint Resolutions. A total of 636 Senate Bills and 31 Senate Joint Resolutions carried over from the 2015 session.
The governor on Monday delivered her State of the State Address and executive budget. President Pro Tempore Bingman released the following statement.

“The budget situation we face this year gives us the opportunity to prove our commitment to the fiscally sound management of taxpayer dollars. I am pleased the governor today expressed a willingness to work together on bold reforms to address our current challenge and reduce the likelihood of future shortfalls. “It will take a combination of strategic cuts, apportionment and tax credit reform, and a reduction in our reliance on one-time funding sources to put us on stronger footing. We can, however, go further in our efforts to build a more solid fiscal foundation. I applaud the governor for her support of my proposal to streamline administrative functions in our K-8 school districts. Our small schools are some of our best schools, and this legislation can make them even stronger by maximizing resources and getting more dollars to the classroom without closing schools.

“The Senate Republican caucus will advance numerous proposals this session to establish a stronger fiscal future for Oklahoma, and all ideas must be given due consideration as we look for solutions. The Senate is ready to make the tough decisions needed to guide the state through this challenge.”

  • In her address, the governor proposed increasing the cigarette tax and expanding the sales to a variety of services that are currently exempt as a way to close the budget hole.
  • Addressing the media following the governor’s speech, President Pro Tempore Bingman said the two tax proposals would be a “tough sell” to the Legislature.
  • Secretary Doerflinger in his Monday press conference said the proposals would require supermajority approval in both houses of the Legislature, as per the requirements of State Question 640.

Talking points on questions and current issues: On tax credits and incentives

  • Given our budget situation, we have to be willing to take a hard look at all apportionments
  • Last year, we approved legislation to establish the Incentive Review Commission. Appointments to the body have been finalized, so work to evaluate and identify ineffective tax credits will soon begin


  • In the meantime, our budget situation has made it clear that we need to carefully scrutinize tax credits and exemptions
  • We provide more than $1.7 billion in credits and exemptions and everything has to be on the table to address this budget challenge


On the governor’s proposals on expanding the sales tax and increasing the cigarette tax


  • Utilizing a tax increase to generate revenue is not the most fiscally responsible way we can address this challenge, and raising taxes in a sluggish economy is not sound fiscal policy
  • Increasing the cigarette tax will likely have the effect of making it a dwindling source of revenue, and will incentivize people to purchase cigarettes through other avenues
  • To craft the kind of budget that will prevent us from dealing with an even worse situation next year, we need to make hard choices this year, and resist gimmicks and tax increases

On streamlining and merging administrative functions in school districts

The volume of legislation filed to address administrative spending makes it clear that this is an important ongoing discussion

  • Some of Oklahoma’s best schools are small schools. We can maximize resources while keeping schools open and protecting the greatest benefits of smaller schools – personal interaction and community involvement
  • With more than 550 school districts, and all the administrative overhead that goes with each one, Oklahoma simply has too many school districts
  • With the exception of Texas, all neighboring states have fewer school districts than Oklahoma
  • As the process advances, we will be examining each of these proposals and assessing their potential effectiveness
  • We want to make it clear that we in no way support any legislation that would have the effect of closing schools

On education standards

  • The Department of Education and the experts involved in the drafting of the standards feel we have produced a set of rigorous academic standards that can better prepare children for college and careers
  • It’s important that educators have certainty, and we can provide that by ensuring this process remains on schedule

On whether the income tax cut should be reconsidered

  • Tax policy is long term policy, and you never want short-term economic conditions to dictate your long-term approach
  • In the big picture, we understand that we need to compete with other states for jobs, and tax policy is fundamental to that effort
  • The tax cut is responsible for only a fraction of the overall budget shortfall. We would still have a shortfall without the tax cut

On earthquakes and seismicity

  • The Corporation Commission has the statutory authority it needs to regulate the oil and gas industry
  • They are working closely with the Oklahoma Geological Survey to identify wastewater wells that may be responsible for seismic activity and have shut down numerous wells
  • Most earthquakes are occurring in the Arbuckle formation in central and north central Oklahoma, where there are a number of very high volume disposal wells, so this cannot be considered a statewide problem
  • The Commission is making progress in addressing the issue

On general budget issues and ideas

  • Everything has to be on the table to address this challenge
  • If we don’t address this situation in a fiscally responsible manner, we may face a shortfall just as large or greater in the following year
  • The state has still yet to feel the full effect of $30 oil, which will impact tax revenues at all levels, and force energy companies to further tighten their belts
  • We have to anticipate this and prepare for it – we cannot wait until next year to make the hard choices

On teacher pay raises

  • In order to have the kind of school system we want, we need to find a way to increase teacher salaries to a level that is competitive with surrounding states
  • Whether that is possible in the current budget climate remains to be seen, but there is broad consensus in the Legislature that we need to find a way to achieve a teacher pay increase
  • In the most recent edition of Treasurer Ken Miller’s Oklahoma Economic Report, Pro Tem Bingman offered the following commentary:
  • “It is critical that we find a way to make our teacher salaries competitive with those of surrounding states. Oklahomans can be assured that having a good teacher in the classroom with along with competitive pay is a priority for us, and we will be carefully considering every plan to achieve this goal.”

On corrections reform

  • We approved a number of measures last year that were important steps toward reducing overcrowding and recidivism, but our incarceration rate is still a very serious problem
  • We cannot solve this problem in one session. We will need to continue our efforts to address Oklahoma’s high incarceration rate by thoroughly examining the system as a whole
  • As we work to reduce our prison population, we need to ensure we are not releasing violent criminals before they have served sentences that are appropriate for their crimes


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