We are heading into the final stretch of the legislative session, but our working pace has not slowed much. Despite any criticism you may hear, rest assured we are still hard at work on next year’s budget.
Each week, we meet to review progress and take an in-depth look at agency budgets, spending and programs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix and considering the $875 million shortfall we’re up against, it will take a combination of solutions to help us overcome the budget challenge.
We can’t easily cut or tax our way out of this situation, but before we create new revenue streams, we are considering tax credit reform, apportionment reform and ensuring current agency efficiencies.
The governor gave final approval this week to House Bill 2298, a measure aimed at ending income tax credits for wind production.
Current law allows owners of wind turbines that begin operation before 2021 to claim a credit on the income earned from energy production, but now with the governor’s signature, the law will change to end the credit this summer on July 1.
Under the provisions of the HB 2298, facilities will need to be operational by that date to qualify for the credit. The savings from this bill will help us gain better financial footing for future budgets in order to invest more in education, public safety and other priorities.
We are also still focused on finding a way to fund teacher pay raises and get more money into classrooms, but with revenue sources limited, it’s a tough task.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved HB 1114 last week, which would give a $1,000 pay raise for teachers during the 2017-18 school year, another $2,000 raise during the 2018-19 school year, and a final $3,000 raise during the 2019-20 school year.
We have not currently identified a way to fund this raise amid the challenging budget situation, but moving the bill forward will at least allow us to keep discussion open and ongoing as we further consider viability of the proposal.
Throughout the legislative session I’ll continue to keep you informed about Senate news and the business of the state.
Senator Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) serves District 3 in the Oklahoma State Senate. He may be contacted at 405-521-5574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.