Oct. 9, 2023
Lawmakers Weigh Budget Transparency Reforms
By Keaton Ross | Democracy/Criminal Justice Reporter
The Oklahoma Legislature tends to fast-track appropriations bills, but that could soon change.
This year it took just three days for a $13 billion state budget proposal to be introduced and signed into law. Since 2014, the general public has had at most seven days to review proposed appropriations to state agencies.
In 2021, the average state deliberated its budget for 82 days, according to an analysis from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Oklahoma’s timeframe for budget negotiations was third-shortest in the nation, ahead of only Nevada and Utah.
The expedited budget process often draws criticism from public policy groups, lobbyists and Democratic lawmakers, who argue the public deserves more time to evaluate the budget proposal and provide input to their representatives. Gov. Kevin Stitt has often complained that his office is not adequately included in budget negotiations.
Included as of last week’s special session call, Stitt asked lawmakers to consider measures that would assure the public has more time to review budget proposals. While no bills were voted on, leaders of both legislative chambers told reporters last week they’re open to reforming the budget process.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the Senate will unveil a sweeping budget transparency bill during the first half of next year’s legislative session. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, promised that budget bills would be posted online at least 24 hours before they’re voted on.
The public comments reflect somewhat of a shift among Republican leadership. The GOP supermajority has defended the budget rollout in recent years, noting that they’re on the clock to meet constitutional deadlines and that agency budget request hearings are open to the public.
Have thoughts on what, if any, budget process reforms the Legislature should take up? Or other story ideas and tips? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
What I’m Reading This Week:
- The Mystery of Ryan Walters: How a Beloved History Teacher Became Oklahoma’s Culture-Warrior-in-Chief: The state schools superintendent has become known for his relentless fight against “woke ideology.” Former students call his transformation dizzying. [The 74]
- Secretary of State’s office spending on attorney for tribal issues broke the law, state audit finds: State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd’s audit found the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office exceeded its authority when it paid $90,000 to an outside attorney Gov. Kevin Stitt hired to examine tribal issues. [The Frontier]
- Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Bring Reparations Case to State Capitol: Two of the three last known living survivors of the race massacre, Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle, attended a hearing with House lawmakers in Oklahoma City. Speakers at the study said the state government, not only the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County, shares responsibility for recompense. [Oklahoma Voice]
The Top Story
While the corrections department does not suspect the deaths are heat-related, prisoner advocates say the situation highlights a need for universal air conditioning in Oklahoma’s prison system. [Read More]
The number of students hit by educators in Oklahoma schools each year has reduced significantly in recent decades, but disparities still exist when it comes to race and disabilities in the small rural places where it’s allowed. [Read More]
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