Governor Fallin planning to formally announce special session

Gov. Mary Fallin. (KOKH/FILE)

Governor Fallin says she plans to announce a special session for the end of September to address the state's budget hole.

The governor says that she is planning a special session Sept. 25. A formal call for the session will be announced in the next few days.

"A formal call for a special session will be issued in the next few days, but I wanted to announce my intention to call a special session for planning purposes. I also want Oklahomans to know we are working diligently to address the fiscal matters of our state,” Gov. Fallin said.

The session will address the state's need to fill approximately $215 million in the state's budget. The money was originally to be collected from a "tobacco cessation fee", which was recently ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

House Minority leader Scott Inman said his caucus is grateful that Fallin has begun preparations for a special session.

"We are still concerned that Republican leadership has yet to put forth a plan to fix the budgetary mess they have created." Inman said. "After almost a month since the Supreme Court ruled the cigarette “fee” unconstitutional, the clock continues to tick on finding a path forward. House Democrats, along with the Governor and Senate leadership have met in good faith to come to an agreement that will allow us to improve our state."

Inman called on House Speaker Charles McCall to bring a detailed, bipartisan plan to the special session.

House Speaker Charles McCall said Republicans will consider raising the cigarette tax in special session, but stated that if House Democrats fail to support it they will send it to a vote of the people.

“The cigarette tax is the only feasible tax option Oklahomans have said they would support. It would help us replace the funds lost when the Court rejected the cigarette fee,” McCall said.

McCall says the cigarette tax, which failed to pass through the House in May, would generate approximately $122 million. A combination of $70 million available in Fiscal Year 2017 prior year cash and $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund.

“House Democrats have shown time and again they are not going to help pass the cigarette tax despite it being the most feasible among Oklahomans,” McCall said.

In the Senate, Pro Tempore Mike Schulz said the call for a special session was expected.

"The governor sets the agenda of the special session, and while we await the details, the Senate knows the importance of working quickly to address the revenue issue so we can limit the time and cost of a special session," Schulz said.

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