Committee deadline moved to Thursday

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

This week, we heard numerous bills on the Floor. The deadline to report bills out of their House of Origin was moved up one week to next Thursday, so we’re having to work quickly to get through the nearly 400 bills on the agenda.

As of Thursday, four more of my bills (SB 1181, 1183, 1184 & 1269) were approved and sent on to the House for further consideration.

The Senate approved the series of apportionment caps I mentioned last week. We met with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services last summer and they pointed out that the legislature has less money to spend each year because of apportionments or off-the-top spending, which is set in statute. Without changes like those being approved, the amount of money apportioned of total and general revenue fund collections will continue to increase in the coming years. Currently, the legislature will only be appropriating 42 percent of total revenue for FY 2020.

This has to change as it is detrimental to our state agencies when the legislature has so little flexibility to adjust funding to help those agencies most impacted by economic downturns. We’ve met with the entities affected by these bills and they were fine with the changes.

The following bills limit the amount of revenue that will be deposited in specific revolving funds based on a three-year average for fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Any collections over that amount will be deposited in the General Revenue Fund. More than likely, the funds would be appropriated back to the same entity but during a revenue shortfall the legislature would have the ability to direct those funds to agencies that serve more vital needs.

We approved SB 1420 modifying the apportionment of revenue to the Motorcycle Safety and Education Program Revolving Fund.

SB 1421 modifies the apportionment of revenue from the tax on tobacco products to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

SB 1411 adjusts apportionments for the Special Occupational Health and Safety Fund.

SB 1412 deals with apportionments from the Used Tire Recycling Indemnity Fund to the Department of Environmental Quality. It also modifies an additional apportion from the fund to the department and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, with the same average three-year revenue restriction.

SB 1422 modifies the apportionment of the motor fuel tax on compressed natural gas and diesel to the High Priority State Bridge Revolving Fund.

SB 1423 adjusts apportionments of the tax on freight car to the Railroad Maintenance Revolving Fund.

SB 1452 modifies annual apportionment of the cigarette tax.

The Senate also approved SB 1569 which allows the Board of Equalization to adjust apportionments when GRF collections for an upcoming fiscal year are forecast to be less than those of the current fiscal year. They can reduce the apportionment by the same percentage that the amount available for appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year is less than such amount for the then-current fiscal year.

Another priority is finding a revenue source for a teacher pay raise. Again, the Senate has passed numerous bills in the last year (October was the most recent and we believe the Step Up plan in January would have been approved in the Senate as well) to provide revenue for a $5,000 raise. However, those bills couldn’t get the necessary votes in the House.

The House and Senate are currently considering a few options to fund a pay raise and we’ll have to see if they get support from their fellow chamber. On Thursday, the Senate approved SJR 70, which would put to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment to expand the uses permitted for certain ad valorem taxes levied by a school district. Currently, tax revenue is placed in a building fund. This would allow it to also be used for operations (including salary increases) deemed necessary by a school district. The title is off the bill so it’s still a work in progress.

You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at efields@oksenate.gov.

Eddie Fields represents Senate District 10 in the Oklahoma legislature.