By Rep. Mike Sanders
A bit of good news for the coming legislative session is that General Revenue Fund collections are up over the previous year. This means we have more to save for future revenue downturns, which we all know are an inevitable part of the economic cycle. It also means we have more to work with when considering the core needs of state government. We must be good stewards of state money and not spend every dime we have.
Collections in December were $620.6 million, up $108 million, or 21.1 percent, from collections in December 2017. Total collections over the first six months of the fiscal year are $442.1 million, or 15.8 percent, above prior year collections.
While these figures are positive, we must remain mindful that oil prices are trending low, and that always has an effect on state revenue.
A new day has arrived in Oklahoma. We have a new governor who has a slate of fresh ideas. I’ll be listening intently alongside other Oklahomans to his budget presentation during his first State of the State address. We’ll be matching that up against the Legislature’s appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year.
As we did last year, we’ll continue to focus on education, this year working to get more money into our classrooms. We’ll also address mental health care needs and work to restore funding for county roads and bridges, which was borrowed against during the years of recession.
Medical marijuana regulations will have to be written, especially those that deal with labeling and testing. We have to make sure we get this right. Although four out of five counties in our district voted against the state question that was put on the ballot by state voters, the state as a whole approved this measure. It’s now up to the House and the Senate to put in place regulations that will keep the public safe.
Also this year, there will be a number of bills that will seek to reform state government, increasing accountability of agency spending. This has long been a priority of mine and other conservative lawmakers and is now shared by the new governor. We will be looking at ways to give the executive greater authority in naming agency heads, much as a chief executive officer would have. I have long felt agency heads should report directly to the executive coupled with legislative oversight vs. only being accountable to unelected boards and commissions.
The Legislature will also form a nonpartisan group to oversee agency funding, much like the federal government’s General Accounting Office. This will ensure programs are needed as a core function of state government and that government isn’t needlessly grown just to match state revenue collections.
On a final note, if you haven’t received my survey yet, you should be soon. Please take a few moments to fill this out and let me know your opinions and concerns for our district. I value you input and want to hear your ideas.
As always, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or email@example.com.