The special session has set sail.
The question is, will this ship accomplish its mission, or be so tossed and battered by the storms of political squabbling that it returns to port with nothing in its holds?
Then let this dingy hoist its sail and take to the high seas.
On Monday, the Governor of the Great State of Oklahoma had the legislature convene for an extraordinary session to deal with the $215 million budget shortfall created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the cigarette fee. (A good decision, by the way.)
She also requested that we deal with inefficiencies in state government, clarify exemptions on the new 1.25 percent sales tax on vehicles, come up with the money for a teacher pay raise, and work on solutions to problems in the budgeting process.
On Wednesday we recessed until further notice with nothing to show for our efforts.
Well, that’s not entirely true. While many are complaining about the money being spent on the special session, the first two days were necessary and expected to be uneventful.
Oklahoma’s constitution does not allow the legislature to vote on bills during the first two days of session. So now those days are out of the way.
Anything else to report?
I have filed two bills for this session. The first is a soft cap on the payouts for wind generation tax credits. That is, electricity produced from zero-emission facilities. The cap begins at $50 million for the first two years and gradually steps up in the following years until the credit is paid in full.
In other words, if there are $75 million in credits claimed during those years, they would receive 67 percent of the claim, and then use the remaining credit in future years.
This limits the state’s liability so we can budget without fear of surprises (since it is possible for claims to exceed $100 million a year), yet still pay over time the full amount of credits promised the wind industry.
The second bill cuts by 25 percent, for two years, many business tax credits.
Both bills are works in progress, but the idea is to help us fund necessary government services while keeping the budget in check, at least a little.
Other bills have been filed that I am hoping leadership will consider in order to try to get the budget even more under control.
Next regular session I hope we will be returning to line item budgeting to force department heads to make cuts that are appropriate, and not the ones that cause pain to the state’s citizens.
Hopefully common sense will prevail during this session.
I welcome your questions and concerns, so please feel free to contact my office at the State Capitol if you would like to discuss a particular issue or problem.
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Big Cabin), whose district includes parts of Delaware County, is in his first term of office in the Oklahoma Senate. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 405-521-5561.