Rep. Pat Ownbey (R) Ardmore had optimism one day before a special session where Oklahoma lawmakers will convene on a number of issues not satisfied during regular session. He is, however, considering what can and cannot be reasonably accomplished.
Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order Sept. 15 calling for a special session starting Monday to address a $215 million budget hole after the state supreme court ruled a $1.50 cigarette tax unconstitutional.
Fallin has also included a potential raise in teacher pay on the agenda, as well as a number of consolidations in state government, among other issues.
As stacked as the agenda is, Ownbey is prioritizing filling the budget hole during the meeting that is expected to cost the state $30,000 a day. The defeat of the proposed cigarette tax, legislation Ownbey also believed was unconstitutional, has created a situation that has to be resolved.
“To fill the budget hole that was approved during the last meeting is my top priority. If we can do that, it will be a successful session,” Ownbey said. “Beyond that, with the teacher pay thing, I’m not optimistic we can do that in a special session.”
On whether he believes the state legislature can make headway in achieving the goals the Governor has set out for them, he looks to bridge the bipartisan divide in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
When asked the greatest obstacle he will face in achieving the goals of the special session, his answer was quick and one word:
“Politics,” he said. “When it comes right down to it, how can we get an agreement on both sides? You’ve got to put politics aside and do the right thing for Oklahomans.”
Ownbey was resolute in asserting he would not cast any vote for legislation that would cut other agencies in order to fill the budget hole. The District 48 Representative’s main goal out of this session is to tackle the deficit that currently looms over the the state.
“People don’t care about the politics of this. They want to see results,” Ownbey said. “I hope we can do that.”