With Oklahoma facing its worst revenue crisis in decades, local legislators said the state budget will be the primary focus of lawmakers’ attention during the second session of the 52nd Legislature, which will convene on Feb. 1.


With Oklahoma facing its worst revenue crisis in decades, local legislators said the state budget will be the primary focus of lawmakers’ attention during the second session of the 52nd Legislature, which will convene on Feb. 1.

“The budget will be the elephant sitting on our chests,” state Rep. Sam Buck said. “Everything else will be peanuts compared to that.”

“We are facing the worst recession since the Great Depression,” Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield said.

“Everyone says, ‘let’s cut out the pork,’ but we are cutting on the bone. I believe the Rainy Day Fund money will all be gone, paying back what we have already borrowed.”

He predicted next year’s budget will be about $2 billion less than what was budgeted for the 2009-10 fiscal year. He is also afraid the looming cuts will have some serious consequences, including fewer Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers on the highways, more state prisoners in county jails, larger class sizes and fewer community mental health services.

“There is a lot of concern,” state Rep. Pat Ownbey said. “We are going to have to tighten our belts, but I believe we will be up for the challenge.”

And while the revenue crisis is expected to receive the bulk of attention during the upcoming session, legislators will also have their hands full addressing the 2,235 bills and 59 joint resolutions filed prior to the Jan. 14 deadline. Those measures are in addition to all the bills and resolutions that were carried over from the 2009 session. The majority of those measures are not expected to make it to the governor’s desk for consideration.

Republicans control both the House and Senate, and their legislative agenda includes workers’ compensation reform; improving and providing funding for vital governmental services such as education, public safety, transportation and health care; growing the state’s economy; streamlining state government; strengthening Oklahoma families;  supporting alternative energy sources and protecting Oklahoma’s water.

“The agenda that the (House) Republican caucus unveiled this week will include efforts to promote a pro-growth business climate, especially through reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system,” Ownbey said. “We will also work to ensure schools do not suffer in this tight budget year while continuing to focus on accountability and targeted reforms.”

Ownbey has filed bills to further protect disabled adults who work in sheltered workshops and to protect mobile home park residents from the effects of tornados, high winds or flooding.

Buck has filed a slightly different tornado safety bill, a bill to reinstate funding for senior nutrition programs, a measure to reduce the school dropout rate, a bill that would eliminate the super-majority requirement from school bond elections and another measure to support volunteer firefighters.

Crutchfield has filed a bill that will make it easier for state residents to adopt Oklahoma children. He said he is also co-authoring several other bills.

The Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, along with its sponsoring partners, has scheduled the 2010 Legislative Luncheon series to give area residents an opportunity to hear directly from Ownbey, Buck and Crutchfield during the legislative session. The dates for the luncheons are Feb. 12, Feb. 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23 and May 7.