May 15, 2015

Lawmakers Still Negotiating Budget, Sears Says

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CAPITOL WATCH State Capitol Photo 1

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter reports on politics, legislation and other issues from the State Capitol.

 

 

State lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin’s office continue to negotiate ways to address a $611.3 million budget gap, the chairman of the House Budget Committee said Friday.

State Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said negotiators were close to finalizing a budget deal, but “several small issues” remained. “Right now work continues,” Sears said. “There are a bunch of little moving targets.”

Most state agencies expect cuts. Earlier this week, the executive director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority released a budget proposal that included more than $40 million in cuts, including a 15 percent reduction in provider rate payments for nurse practitioners.

“I know people are worried,” Sears said. “And we are looking at other options for the Health Care Authority, but nothing has been decided,” he said.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said Friday the budget deal could hurt rural health care, education and transportation.

“Right now they’re taking about a 5 percent cut to higher education,” Inman said. “That would mean $55 million out of their budget. It’s irresponsible.”

The first session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature adjourns at 5 p.m. May 29th.