Speaker McCall: Members will be called back to vote on short-term appropriations plan
ATOKA, Okla. (KOKH) —
A crowd packed into the community building in Atoka to hear from the Oklahoma Speaker of the House. Charles McCall was in his hometown Friday, even as his team remains in Oklahoma City, working on a budget deal.
McCall announced he would be calling House members back to the Capitol next week, so they could vote on a short-term plan to keep services going.
“We will go back in [next] week in the House, and at the very least, if we don’t have an agreement to a plan, we will appropriate money for these three agencies,” he said.
As the head of the House, McCall is at the forefront of the state budget plan.
Many in the crowd in Atoka were mental health advocates.
“They’re scared right now and they’re afraid that their support systems are all going to be gone and none of us, I don’t believe even the legislators, what to see that happen,” said Deborah Moran who has worked in the mental health field for 27 years.
ODMHSAS is one of three agencies at risk of budget cuts. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Human Services are also at risk. Each was notified of a combined $215 million in appropriations they would begin losing because no solution has been reached to overcome the failed cigarette fee.
Speaker McCall said budget cut announcements were premature, but because they were made, he would call members back to the Capitol to vote.
“It certainly is a catalyst for us to come in and appropriate and pass legislation to fix it,” he said.
McCall’s plan is to take the unexpected extra $83 million the state collected last year and $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund to keep services going until a budget deal is reached.
“I think that’s probably a band-aid,” Moran said. “I would like to see us come up with an agreement so that every year we are not battling for dollars for Oklahomans across the state.”
The short-term plan would only require a simple majority vote, McCall said. Reaching a budget deal with new revenue requires a 75 percent vote.
“It’s difficult to get 75 percent together in the legislature. It’s difficult to get 75 percent of a church congregation to agree on issues at times. So it’s always a challenge, but it’s our job,” McCall said.
He said negotiations are on-going and he believes a deal will be reached,
“We’ve worked very hard the last three weeks I’ve been in Oklahoma City but for yesterday and today,” he said. “I believe that we’re going to get an agreement and I believe, that it could be soon but, I will tell you this, I will continue to be up there nearly every day until we do. This is a very important situation for the people of the state of Oklahoma.”