House Speaker McCall says delay budget cuts
by Dale Denwalt, NewsOK.com
Agencies grasping for new revenue might be able to delay a $215 million budget cut until 2018, Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall declared Thursday.
“The state has available cash that the House could appropriate to protect healthcare services impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision,” McCall said in a news release. “These monies would delay the cuts into 2018 or until a strategic budget solution is reached. It is important to note that the House Republicans will not allow these three agencies to absorb a $215 million cut.”
The speaker’s remarks came a day after the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services warned it was preparing to eliminate state funding for almost every outpatient program. The agency’s announcement sparked outrage among the health care community, who have eagerly awaited some kind of budget deal. On Tuesday next week, several groups will hold a rally inside the Oklahoma Capitol.
Three health care agencies are the ones most affected by the loss of $215 million from an unconstitutional cigarette fee. Starting this month, they must reduce monthly spending to account for the money they lost.
McCall, R-Atoka, did not describe how lawmakers might boost agency spending, but he has previously described one-time sources of money that could be used to help fill the budget gap. Lawmakers also can adopt bills that only require 51 votes in the House to pass.