Floor leader: Budget negotiators 'circling' agreement
Budget negotiators at the Oklahoma Capitol are "circling an agreement," House Floor Leader Jon Echols said Monday, showing a glimmer of optimism amid months of stalled budget negotiations and political gamesmanship.
In a Facebook post, Echols said negotiations will continue in several meetings Monday even as the House and Senate have no public special session hearings scheduled this week.
"It is starting to feel like we are circling an agreement," Echols posted. "There are at least two of what I would consider serious proposals being floated around."
He continued, saying that lawmakers would be called back within three or four days if a consensus is reached, giving time for a final deal to be reviewed before it comes up for a vote.
"I am hopeful everyone will continue to give enough to provide the stability necessary to fund core services, but still be good stewards of taxpayer dollars by finding efficiencies," said Echols, R-Oklahoma City.
When lawmakers convened special session a week ago, the first major piece of legislation they considered was a cigarette tax. House leadership pulled the bill from consideration after Democrats said they wouldn't provide enough votes Republicans needed to push it through the Capitol.
Democrats said they would vote for a cigarette tax if Republicans would also support raising the tax rate on oil and natural gas production.
Three Oklahoma health agencies were sent reeling after an August court ruling stripped $215 million from their fiscal year 2018 budgets. The 12-month fiscal year began in July, so the agencies are already one-fourth of the way through their budget cycles.